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The strongest hurricane ever recorded is bearing down on Mexico's Pacific coast, threatening a "potentially catastrophic" landfall.

Mexican authorities have begun evacuating residents ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Patricia.

The storm is comparable to Typhoon Haiyan, which killed 6,300 people in the Philippines in 2013, the World Meteorological Organization says.

A state of emergency has been declared in three states in Patricia's path.

The category five hurricane is expected to make landfall on Friday afternoon or evening, with winds of 325km/h (200mph).

Hurricane Patricia: Key questions

The US National Hurricane Center said on its website: "Potentially catastrophic Hurricane Patricia moving northward toward landfall in south-western Mexico."

The centre added that it was the strongest storm it had recorded in the eastern Pacific or the Atlantic.

It has already produced the third lowest barometer reading ever recorded - a pressure of 880 millibars at the centre of the storm - the centre reported.

Some 400,000 people live in vulnerable areas, according to Mexico's National Disaster Fund.

The hurricane, which will bring torrential rain, could trigger flash floods and mudslides, the US centre said.

t also warned of potential flooding from the sea and destructive waves.

The hurricane's winds are strong enough "to get a plane in the air and keep it flying", World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Claire Nullis said.

BBC Earth explains: What is a hurricane?

According to forecasters, Patricia will make landfall in the western state of Jalisco, home to the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, which could lie directly in its path.

Police patrols in the resort urged people to leave the shorefront for safer areas at least three blocks inland, while loudspeakers ordered hotel residents to evacuate.

Few people were seen going to official shelters, designed to accommodate 259,000 people, though there were queues at the local bus station.

The town's airport, along with two others in the path of the storm, were closed.

Schools have been closed in Jalisco, Colima and Guerrero states.