Saturday, October 22, 2005

Latest Wilma News From Reuters (I HATE HURRICANES!)

Hurricane Wilma pounds Mexican resorts, killing three

Sun Oct 23, 2005 2:26 AM BST

By Noel Randewich

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Hurricane Wilma blasted through Mexico's Caribbean resorts on Saturday, smashing homes and killing three people in a slow-moving rampage that put it on course to hit Florida next.

Howling hurricane winds tore off roofs and uprooted trees for a third day running across the Yucatan peninsula. Thousands of glum tourists faced another night in sweltering shelters with no light or running water, eating food rations.

The long spit of white sand that draws planeloads of sun seekers to Cancun was under water. Luxury hotels were flooded up to knee-level and littered with debris after the normally tranquil sea roared inland.

As the rains and winds eased a little on Saturday evening, tourists and locals ventured out in search of food and some took advantage of the chaos to loot.

Dozens waded out of smashed stores with plasma TVs, fridges and bundles of clothes on hangers. Police fired shots into the water to try and scatter them.

"It's a complete disaster. The city is totally destroyed," said restaurant worker Pablo Resendiz, picking his way through flooded streets that were cut off to cars by tangles of fallen power cables and other debris.

Rescue workers paddled to flooded neighbourhoods and plucked families from houses where the muddy water was chest-high.

In one area, locals had spent a terrifying night, afraid that crocodiles from a nearby swamp would swim in with the water rushing into their homes.

"It was a hellish nightmare. We thought the water was going to reach the second floor," said lawyer Oscar Trevino as his wife and four children were helped to safety.

In a nearby house, a 4-year-old girl sat shivering and hungry on a soggy mattress perched on a kitchen counter and table where her bedraggled family spent the night.

Wilma had calmed down by evening to a Category 2 hurricane on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson scale, but winds were still at 100 mph (160 kph) with higher gusts. It was expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico during the night.


The Yucatan peninsula, famous for its turquoise seas, white sand and Mayan ruins, has been lashed by Wilma since Thursday.

Florida was next in line with Wilma due to hit by Monday. Authorities were taking no risks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and ordered mandatory evacuations, starting with 80,000 residents of the vulnerable Florida Keys.

"Take this seriously. There will be flooding," Key West spokesman Michael Haskins told local radio.

In Mexico, the coral-fringed resort island of Cozumel, popular with scuba divers, took the brunt of the storm on Friday. Many locals remained in shelters on Saturday, with power still out and no boat services running.

One man was killed in Yucatan state when a tree branch blew off and crushed him. Two people died when a gas tank exploded in the resort of Playa del Carmen, south of Cancun.

Half a dozen flimsy homes were knocked down in Playa del Carmen and felled concrete pylons cut the highway to Cancun. A smashed small plane lay upside down on a flooded air strip.

As locals bailed out their homes with buckets, Mexican and foreign visitors waded through waist-high water, desperate for food and water. A German couple dragged their backpacks through the chalky water, searching for somewhere dry to sleep.

"We haven't eaten since Thursday. I don't know what we're going to do," said migrant worker Juan Gonzales.

Wilma was moving extremely slowly, raising hopes it will have weakened considerably before reaching Florida.

Mexico is used to hurricanes but this is one of the biggest and slowest-moving in years, dumping intense rain on the area.

Meteorologist Alberto Hernandez noted Wilma was also unusually big with a diameter of 500 miles (800 km).

"I've lived through three hurricanes. This is the worst," said tourist police chief Alberto Pat in Playa del Carmen, where five prisoners escaped from jail when a fence blew down.

Thousands of stranded tourists prepared for another night huddled in dank, sweaty refuges but many were relieved to have been evacuated from flimsy beach cabins along the coast.

"We are very fortunate to be here. We were in a palm hut. I bet there is nothing left. I cannot wait for this to be over," said Scott Whitcher, 38, from San Francisco. He was bathing in rain on a hotel balcony after two days without running water.

Some 1,600 tourists in a gymnasium were moved to safer locations just before the roof blew off, a city official said.

Mudslides caused by Wilma killed 10 people in Haiti this week and Cuba, which evacuated 559,000 people, was hit by drenching rains and tornadoes in the west of the island.

This hurricane season has spawned three of the most intense storms on record. Experts say the Atlantic has entered a period of heightened storm activity that could last 20 for years.

(Additional reporting by Greg Brosnan in Playa del Carmen, Monica Medel in Mexico City, Michael Christie in Miami, Laura Myers in Key West and Anthony Boadle in Cuba)

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


Blogger Exhomeless-Guy said... is a disaster related portal I created after the Katrina hurricane (in hopes to help).

23/10/05 05:04  

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