UPDATE 1-Tropical Storm Erick approaches Mexico's Pacific coast, strengthens

Fri Jul 5, 2013 7:11pm EDT

MEXICO CITY, July 5 (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Erick kicked out increasingly strong wind gusts as it approached Mexico's Pacific coast port of Lazaro Cardenas on Friday, and a large swath of the country braced for drenching rain.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Erick could dump up to 8 inches (20 cm) of rain along the coast and cause "life-threatening" flooding and mudslides.

It said the storm was located about 130 miles (205 km) south of Lazaro Cardenas at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT), packing maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (100 km per hour).

Erick is expected to continue strengthening and become a hurricane by later tonight or tomorrow.

The Mexican government extended tropical storm warnings to cover the area from the Pacific tourist resort of Zihuatanejo in Guerrero state to Cabo Corrientes in Jalisco state. The area encompasses Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo, the country's top cargo shipping hub.

Mexico has no major oil installations in the storm's path.

Emergency services personnel in Manzanillo and Zihuatanejo said local weather conditions were unaffected by the storm.

The NHC said Erick was expected to skirt the coast over the next couple of days as it moves west-northwest at 10 mph (19 kph), but the storm's center is not expected to make landfall.