Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Latest News from - 'Tourists Stream Out of Cancun'

Tourists stream out of Cancun
26/10/2005 18:18  - (SA)  

Tourists wait on a highway near the airport as they try to leave Cancun, Mexico. (Jose Luis Magana, AP)

Cancun - Thousands of stranded tourists were flowing out of Cancun on Wednesday, but thousands more were still trying to escape the Caribbean resorts pounded for two days by Hurricane Wilma.

Presidential spokesperson Ruben Aguilar said on Wednesday that power had been restored to about a quarter of Cancun and the neighbouring Mayan Riviera. He said it would take a month to restore power everywhere in the area; Wilma knocked down an estimated 10 000 power poles.

Aguilar said that 18 000 of the tourists trapped by the hurricane had already left the city and 22 000 remained on Wednesday morning. Airport operators said 6 000 more should be able to leave on the 34 flights planned for the day at Cancun's badly damaged airport.

While desperate tourists crammed the airport, thousands of others were bused to planes in Merida, a 280km trip that normally takes four hours but which has been lengthened by heavy traffic and partially flooded roads.

Damaged tourism industry

"Enough's enough," said Paul Bracey, 45, of Wales, said at a hotel serving as a shelter in downtown Cancun as he waited for a bus to Merida late on Tuesday night. "We're still stranded, and have been told six days of lies. Soon we can have something real to eat, have a shower."

The company that operates the Cancun airport, Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, said on Wednesday that Wilma had knocked out the airport's navigational aids, so flights must operate visually - ruling out flights at night or in poor weather until equipment is replaced. One of two terminals was closed indefinitely for repairs.

Wilma crossed directly over the airport after hitting the coastline Friday. It wiped out the heart of Mexico's $11bn foreign tourism industry and even washed away much of Cancun's famed white beachfront.

Eric and Michelle Joseph, honeymooners form San Jose, California, said that a river of human waste had run through hallways at the hotel where 1 200 tourists were sheltered during the storm.

Clyde Wiseman, a petrochemical supervisor from Godfrey, Illinois said he didn't know when he'd be leaving.

"I'm happy to be among the living," he said. "But to the travel agents, the airlines, I want to say, I don't want to be among the forgotten."

Ferries were carrying supplies and people between the mainland and the hurricane-raked resort islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, Fox's office said on Tuesday. The United States Embassy said 900 Americans were believed to be on Cozumel.

Officials on Tuesday lowered the known death toll from six to four. The storm also killed at least five in Florida, 12 in Haiti and one in Jamaica.

Clean-up had already begun at many hotels and some hoped to be working within a few weeks.

"The aftermath of this storm is unimaginable," said David Krouham, the company's chief executive officer.


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