CULIACAN, Mexico -- Hurricane Paul ravaged northern Mexico Thursday with gale winds and flooding that killed 24 people, left dozens missing and forced 60,000 people to flee their homes, officials said.
The government's Notimex news service said at least 24 people were killed by the hurricane, packing winds up to 150 mph that battered a 200-mile-wide strip of Mexico's Pacific coast.
Notimex, which did not give a breakdown of where the people were killed, said 15-foot waves swamped boats and flooded low-lying towns. Utility lines were ripped down and highways through the region were washed out.
Military officers in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa said 82 people were injured in the town of Ahome and nearby city of Guasave, both about 500 miles south of the Arizona border.
About 40 miles further north, Los Mochis Red Cross spokesman Miguel Aguilar said 90 people were injured by debris hurled through the city by gale winds.
Los Mochis Mayor Jaime Montano said the force of the hurricane 'was much stronger than what had been expected, and caused more damage than Hurricane Lidia,' which killed some 50 people in the same area last October.
Sinaloa Governor Antonio Toledo declared much of the northern end of the state a disaster area. Sinaloa officilas estimated 50,000 were homeless and said the total might triple because the Sinaloa River was threatening to flood the Guasave.
At least another 10,000 were forced to flee their homes in Baja California, the first area hit by the storms, said Red Cross official Dr. Jose Rodriguez.
Army troops began evacuating 43 towns hit by the hurricane in the state of Sinaloa and struggled to reach eight villages cut off by flooding, state officials said.
Officials said as many as 3,000 people trapped in the mountainous village of Huitusi near Guasave, were in danger and could not be reached by road or air.
Thousands of people crowded into churches, schools, clubs and government buildings to take shelter from the torrential rains and gale-force winds that struck Mexico's west coast.
'Dozens of people have disappeared,' a spokesman for the Culiacan fire department said. Officials said many people had been injured, but they added it was too early to determine an exact casualty figure.
Telephone and power lines were uprooted by winds, blacking out parts of the state capital of Culiacan and the cities of Los Mochis, Guamuchil and Guasave, officials said.
Air and railroad travel to the area was suspended and many roads were impassable, Ontiveros said.