August 11, 2012 - 11:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Ernesto weakened to a tropical depression as it moved inland Friday, August 10 killing seven people and dumping rains in the mountains of Mexico's flood-prone southern Gulf region, AP said.
In Veracruz state, two people were killed early Friday, including a teenage girl who was inside a car dragged by a river current and a 62-year-old man who was struck by lightning, the state's civil protection department said in a statement.
It said three members of a family died Thursday night when strong winds knocked down a tree that fell on their car, the state's civil protection department said in a statement.
A 38-year-old man, his wife and their 8-year-old boy were killed, it added.
In neighboring Tabasco state, two fishermen drowned when the stormed passed through the area Thursday, Gov. Andres Granier told reporters.
Granier said the storm's strong winds ripped rooftops from several homes but residents refused to evacuate, fearing their possessions might be stolen. "People have chosen to stay in their homes and we are helping them," he said.
Ernesto came ashore Thursday near the waters dotted with oil rigs operated by the state oil company in the far southern Gulf of Mexico. The government closed its largest Gulf coast port, Veracruz, and the smaller ports of Alvarado and Coatzacoalcos.
Coatzacoalcos, a major oil port, got seven inches (177 millimeters) of rain in the 24 hours before Ernesto's center passed just a few miles (kilometers) away, according to Mexico's weather service. San Pedro in the neighboring state of Tabasco had seen more than 10 inches (273 millimeters).
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ernesto's sustained winds had decreased to 35 mph (55 kph) by early Friday. It said the storm would continue weakening and should dissipate by midday Friday, although it warned that heavy rains could continue into Friday night.
Ernesto was a weak hurricane when it made its first landfall late Tuesday near the cruise ship port of Mahahual in Yucatan, but it weakened as it crossed the peninsula and then spun into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday night.
Early Friday, the storm was centered about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Oaxaca, Mexico, and moving west near 13 mph (20 kph).
The U.S. hurricane center said Ernesto still had the potential to cause flooding and could produce rainfalls of up to 15 inches in some parts of the mountainous areas of Veracruz, Tabasco, Puebla and Oaxaca states before dissipating.