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Hurricane Alex floods towns on Mexican coast

Hurricane Alex hit the Mexican coast south of the US border, flooding towns far inland, but the powerful storm stayed clear of oil fields to the relief of crude markets.

The category two hurricane hampered efforts to control the massive BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast, and its winds of 165kph uprooted trees and lashed the port city of Matamoros across from Brownsville, Texas.

Rain from the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season swamped beaches and streets, while soaked Mexican marines in towns in Tamaulipas state ushered residents into shelters as three-metre high waves slammed into the shore.

"We need food, we need water, we are getting desperate," said cleaner Rocio Guerra with her three young children in a crowded, muddy shelter with overflowing toilets in Matamoros.

Alex made landfall on the Tamaulipas coast around 9pm local time yesterday, the US National Hurricane Center said. Its rains had already flooded highways as far inland as the industrial city of Monterrey, and the Center warned of isolated tornadoes in south Texas.

One man died in Monterrey yesterday when his house collapsed in the heavy rains, rescue authorities said. Alex killed a dozen people in Central America over the weekend.

Families boarded up homes, and Texan authorities urged people to leave beach towns as strong winds tipped over trailers and bands of intense rain pounded the area.