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Ismael leaves 58 dead in Mexico

Mexico City (agencies) - A hurricane that lashed Mexico's north- western Pacific states over the weekend killed at least 58 people with 31 reported missing, officials said.

Ismael battered the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora, where about 4,000 homes and 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of agricultural land suffered damage. Officials said most of the dead were fishermen caught by surprise while at sea.

Emergency workers rescued 122 fishermen adrift at sea in the aftermath of the hurricane, which struck on Saturday and Sunday; 28 boats were reported missing. The loss to the fishing industry is estimated at pounds 14m with the ports of Topolobampo, Guasave, Navolato and Mazatlan reporting serious damage.

Fishermen said outdated fishing vessels were swept under by the 30ft (10m) waves after Hurricane Ismael hit land on Thursday night. Winds reached 80mph with gusts of 100mph. One-third of the villages in the area remain cut off.

The storm brought heavy rainfall to the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa and neighbouring Chihuahua state, which has been suffering a drought.

Meanwhile, emergency workers battled to provide food and shelter for thousands of people in the US Virgin Islands after Hurricane Marilyn hit the Caribbean, killing at least six. St Thomas was hardest hit, with an estimated 25 per cent of its buildings destroyed.

At least one plane-load of tourists managed to leave the island on Sunday and US emergency teams were attempting yesterday to return regular services to the island's airport.

James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that 100 US marshals had arrived on the island. He said there had been some "minor looting".

The agency also brought in food, water, radios, plastic sheeting, blankets, tents and other supplies to help the 50,000 islanders. Power was out and water supplies were disrupted by the storm, which hit the island with winds of 125mph.