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Mexico struggles to return order, restore services in hurricane-hit resort area of Los Cabos

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MEXICO CITY — Authorities struggled Friday to restore services and calm residents five days after Hurricane Odile knocked out power, water and phone service along the Baja Peninsula, sparking widespread looting in the resort area of Los Cabos.

Federal officials said 200 electricity workers were deployed in the affected area of Baja California Sur state. Power and water had been restored to only about 20 percent of customers in the twin resort cities of Los Cabos.

Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong said more than 8,000 federal troops and police had arrived since Monday, after hundreds of stores were looted of food, water and other goods.

Aerial photos showed entire neighborhoods of low-income homes destroyed, flooded streets, fallen walls and overturned trucks and rubble.

An airlift involving military transport planes and commercial airliners evacuated more than 18,000 tourists in the last two days, said Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, secretary of communications and transport.

PHOTO: A woman pauses as she leans against a wooden slat that is part of her home destroyed by Hurricane Odile, in San Jose de los Cabos, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Water and electricity service remained out and phone service was intermittent. Electric commission officials said some 2,500 power poles were toppled by Odile, which struck late Sunday as a Category 3 storm. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
A woman pauses as she leans against a wooden slat that is part of her home destroyed by Hurricane Odile, in San Jose de los Cabos, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Water and electricity service remained out and phone service was intermittent. Electric commission officials said some 2,500 power poles were toppled by Odile, which struck late Sunday as a Category 3 storm. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

"The State Department arranged four charter flights that evacuated more than 500 U.S. citizens over the past 24 hours. And so far, thousands of American citizens have departed the area on evacuation flights," U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

Forty-one people were flown to Los Angeles International Airport on a U.S. Air Force C-130, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, though he added there would no large-scale evacuation by the U.S. military.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said later in the day that most U.S. citizens had left the area and that commercial flights were now departing from Los Cabos. It discouraged people against traveling by car, saying the road north to Tijuana has numerous wash-outs and warned off a scarcity of fuel.

"A gasoline shortage, and other obstacles make the journey on this highway dangerous and arduous," it said.

Tropical Storm Polo continued to move west-northwest off Mexico's Pacific coast, heading in the general direction of Baja California, though forecasts pointed to it staying away from land. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Polo was 250 miles (400 kilometers) south-southeast of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula late Friday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph).

Tropical Storm Edouard was far out in the Atlantic and no threat to land.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: A Mexican army soldier uses an axe on a palm tree felled when Hurricane Odile made landfall as a Category 3 storm,  in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. As clean up began, water and electricity service remained out and phone service intermittent. Electric commission officials said some 2,500 power poles were toppled by Odile, which struck late Sunday, leaving widespread damage and flooding. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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