(Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Patricia, the strongest in the historyof the Americas, prepared to barrel into Mexico’s Pacific coastFriday, sending guests fleeing hotels in the Puerto Vallarta resortarea.

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About 400,000 people are considered “vulnerable," civilprotection official Jose Maria Tapia told reporters in Mexico City.The Category 5 storm is packing winds as fast as 200 miles perhour.

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Patricia is expected to make landfall Friday between Vallartaand Manzanillo, Mexico’s busiest container port. The “extremelydangerous” hurricane will trigger life-threatening mudslides andflash floods as it heads its way north toward Texas, according tothe U.S. National Weather Service.

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“We can’t underestimate the magnitude of this phenomenon,”Roberto Ramirez, chief of Mexico’s National Water Commission, saidin a message streamed on the Internet Friday, urging residents totake precautions or evacuate. “A Category 5 hurricane could liftcars, destroy houses that aren’t built with steel, rebar andcement, and sweep people away.”

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The storm could cause more than $3 billion in damages, withabout a sixth of that total incurred by insurers, according to aprojection by Kinetic Analysis Corp. It has already forced theclosure of ports in Vallarta, Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas,according to the Communications and Transportation Ministry.Manzanillo has a liquefied natural gas terminal and a rail lineoperated by Ferromex, owned by Grupo Mexico SAB and Union PacificCorp.

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Everest Re Group Ltd. was among insurers that declined in NewYork trading. The Bermuda-based company fell 1.4 percent to$179.06. Zurich-based Ace Ltd., which expanded in Mexico with the2013 purchase of ABA Seguros, dropped 0.3 percent. GrupoAeroportuario del Pacifico SAB, which operates airports inVallarta, Manzanillo and Guadalajara, fell as much as 7.5 percentto 141.90 pesos for the biggest intraday decline in almost fouryears.

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The peso weakened 0.8 percent, the most among Latin Americancurrencies.

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About half of the 15,000 tourists in Nayarit state, just northof Vallarta, are expected to be evacuated to Guadalajara, TourismMinister Enrique de la Madrid told Milenio TV. The luxury St. RegisHotel in Punta Mita, Nayarit, evacuated all 160 guests early Fridayand isn’t taking reservations, which can run as steep as $2,730 anight, according to public relations director Paulina Feltrin.

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A Marriott International Inc. resort in Vallarta was alsoevacuated and closed, the company said in a statement. Some guestsleft the area entirely while others were relocated to hotels inGuadalajara, 125 miles away.

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Taxis in the area were busy transferring guests to Guadalajara,where many tourists are flying home after Vallarta shuttered itsinternational airport.

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“Everything is closed. There’s no one here,” said FedericoArmenta, who manned a taxi stand outside Punta de Mita’s mainbeach-front drag minutes before leaving the town himself. “All ofour cabs are heading to Guadalajara.”

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Most guests at Manzanillo’s Las Hadas resort had left by earlyFriday, according to Lety Mancilla, a hotel employee.

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“Almost all the guests are gone,” she said by telephone. “Thehotel is well built and we have a secure area for the ones that areleft.”

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Bank branches and other financial institutions were set to closeat 12 p.m. in Vallarta, Manzanillo and other coastal towns, theFinance Ministry said in a statement. Gas stations in the affectedareas were also planning to close, according to state-owned oilproducer Petroleos Mexicanos.

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The sudden expansion of Patricia in the past two days may belinked with the El Nino phenomenon. The change in oceantemperatures may already have contributed to Typhoon Koppu thatkilled 40 people in the Philippines last week and HurricaneJoaquin, which sank the container ship El Faro in the Bahamas atthe beginning of the month. The emergence this year of El Nino hasalso helped push global temperatures to record highs.

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A Mexican envoy at United Nations climate change negotiationstoday choked back tears as he warned of the storm’s impendingimpact and recalled how a hurricane pounded the beach resort ofAcapulco in 2013. Roberto Dondisch addressed a packed plenary hallin Bonn after a week of negotiations to draft a new climateagreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

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“This is a level 5 hurricane, the biggest super hurricane everrecorded in that area,” Dondisch said. “I don’t think I have to saymore about the urgency of getting this deal done.”

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For Related News and Information: Stories on emerging markets:NI EM Top stories on Latin America: TOPL Stories on emerging-marketcurrencies: TNI EM FRX Most-read news on Mexico: MNI MEX

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--With assistance from Andrea Navarro in Mexico City, AlexMorales in Bonn, Germany, Brian K. Sullivan in Boston and SonaliBasak in New York.

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Copyright 2018 Bloomberg. All rightsreserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten,or redistributed.

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