Hurricane Odile: British couple missing off Mexican coast

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Media captionThe BBC's Alastair Leithead says tourist towns were hit hardest

A British couple have been reported missing at sea after Hurricane Odile hit Mexico last weekend.

Friends of Paul Whitehouse and Simone Wood, from Wolverhampton and London respectively, said they were on a yacht which capsized in La Paz's harbour.

Odile destroyed homes and hotels in the beach resorts of Mexico's Baja California peninsula on Sunday.

The Foreign Office said it was assisting the couple's families and ensuring other UK tourists were safe.

Their 70ft boat was one of 25 which capsized when the hurricane hit, says BBC Los Angeles correspondent Alastair Leithead.

Mr Whitehouse has been working as a scuba instructor in La Paz for a year. Both he and Ms Wood are thought to be in their 40s, our correspondent added.

Vigilante groups

On Wednesday, thousands of tourists had to be airlifted from the Los Cabos resort.

Military and commercial planes transported them from Los Cabos international airport, which is closed to commercial flights because of damage from the storm.

Odile made landfall at Mexico's Pacific Coast last Sunday as a category three hurricane, causing extensive damage.

Vigilante groups in Baja California Sur have set up patrols in an attempt to prevent looting in the state.

Many shacks in poor areas in the region were blown away by the storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 125mph (205km/h) according to the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Responding to reports about the missing British couple, a spokesman for the British embassy said: "We are in touch with local authorities and are providing consular assistance to the families at this difficult time.

"We are urgently working with authorities on the ground in Mexico to ensure the safety of British nationals following Hurricane Odile, and have sent staff from our embassy to assist in this."

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