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From the Archives: Hurricane Liza devastates La Paz, Mexico

From the Archives: Hurricane Liza devastates La Paz, Mexico
Oct. 2, 1976: Part of a La Paz, Mexico, shantytown destroyed by a wall of water and mud during Hurricane Liza. ((John Malmin / Los Angeles Times))

Around midnight on Sept. 30, 1976, Category 4 Hurricane Liza slammed into La Paz in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Staff writer Patt Morrison reported in the Oct. 3, 1976, Los Angeles Times:

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LA PAZ, Mex.––Only 24 hours after Hurricane Liza stormed through the dirt streets of the city, La Paz was burying its dead and beginning to rebuild itself.

By Saturday, rescue crews digging under mud-buried cars and rain-torn shacks had found hundreds of bodies, bringing the death toll to more than 650, and one government official said he feared it would rise to 1,000.

Saturday, La Paz was a city without adequate fresh water or gasoline, without electricity or telephones, and the first wave of relief–medicines, food, shelters–had still not shaken the city out of its shock.

The floodwater that tore through three of the Baja California city's poor communities near midnight Thursday wiped out entire neighborhoods of flimsy cardboard, palm frond and tarpaper shacks, built in a wide, dry riverbed that had not run for years, below a low earthen dam that had withstood the weather before.

But the estimated 6 inches of rainfall that rolled off hillsides and made rivers where there had been none broke through the Porvenir ("future") dam and swept through the shantytown, leaving thousands homeless and obliterating any trace of the settlement…

The final death toll in La Paz was a little over 400, with 20,000 left homeless. Hurricane Liza is considered the worse natural disaster to hit Baja California Sur.

These three photos by staff photographer John Malmin appeared in the Oct. 3, 1976, Los Angeles Times. The photo above was Page 1 lead art.

This post was originally published on June 25, 2014.

Oct. 2, 1976: Car rests on top of second in aftermath of Hurricane Liza that lashed La Paz, Mexico.
Oct. 2, 1976: Car rests on top of second in aftermath of Hurricane Liza that lashed La Paz, Mexico. ((John Malmin / Los Angeles Times))
Oct. 2, 1976: Young man hangs his head in La Paz street outside federal housing project that was extensively damaged by Hurrican Liza.
Oct. 2, 1976: Young man hangs his head in La Paz street outside federal housing project that was extensively damaged by Hurrican Liza. ((John Malmin / Los Angeles Times))
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