Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thursday's Guardian Unlimited (UK), Oct. 27, 2005

 click here to go to The Guardian

Mexico counts Wilma cost in lost dollars and beaches

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Thursday October 27, 2005
Copyright 2005 The Guardian

Tens of thousands of bedraggled tourists, including 8,600 Britons, stranded in the Yucatan peninsula for nearly a week after Hurricane Wilma, are finally boarding planes to go home. But reconstruction of the battered Caribbean holiday region will take much longer, say local officials.

Many streets remain flooded and power lines are down. Emergency supplies are only just getting to some of the more isolated areas, and houses in the poorer districts have been rated as beyond repair.

Article continues

With its 140mph winds and surge flooding over two days, Hurricane Wilma damaged even the sturdiest hotel complexes in Cancun, although many buildings escaped with just blown out windows and soggy interiors.

Damage to the tourism infrastructure in the less-developed parts of the coast, known as the Maya Riviera, as well as on the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, has yet to be assessed. But signs that Wilma may also have washed away entire beaches are perhaps the storm's most worrying legacy for a population almost entirely dependent on tourism. Last year the riveria and Cancun received 8 million tourists.

Eloan Galindo, Cancun's environmental spokesman, told Bloomberg news agency that 90% of the city's famous white-sand beaches had gone; there was "only sun and rocks". But other officials said it was impossible to assess the beaches until the tides returned to normal.

Although few people are yet willing to hazard a guess at the repair costs of the hurricane, figures are circulating on the losses incurred while the tourism industry is shut down. John McCarthy, director of the National Fund for Tourism, told reporters the sector would lose $15m (£8m) a day. The Cancun hoteliers alone estimate their daily lost revenue at $7m. The area has not faced such a crisis since Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, but Wilma, locals say, is much worse.

The president, Vicente Fox, who visited at the weekend, said he hoped that 80% of the infrastructure would be up and running for Christmas and New Year when hotels are usually full. Most estimates, however, put that point at three or four months further on.

Cancun, built in the 1970s, together with the Maya Riviera, represent Mexico's premier holiday destination bringing in about a third of the national tourism revenue. Last year the 20.6 million foreigners who visited Mexico spent close to $11bn. The government is already lobbying the Interamerican Development Bank for a $500m loan on the hoteliers' behalf.

While the Mexican authorities were praised for their storm preparations that helped keep the death toll to single figures, their handling of the aftermath has not gone so well. The police took days to re-impose law and order in Cancun.


Blogger gina said...

Lorna, thank you for all this.

27/10/05 21:56  
Blogger Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Thank you, Gina! I was afraid I had lost all my Po' Bloggin' Buddies with all this grim news. I just wrote 44 of 82 foto hay(na)ku poems today for Isla Relief notecards as a fundraiser. And, as a stress relief. Also, these just pop out like zen, as the Spirit moves me. These are 82 photos that someone just posted from Isla. I never thought I'd be able to write about this -- not only too close to home, this IS Home. And, my friends, still incomunicado.

I still have your friend in my heart -- odd, how fotos hold power; very impressive, hers. Thanks for your email. I'm so glad you found some comfort in that Sister video from Rosie. Some things are for passing on and they come to you just when you need them.

28/10/05 00:48  

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