Hurricane Wilma lingered over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for over 48 hours, lashing the resort areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel with 140 mph (225 km/hr) winds, torrential rains and a massive storm surge, which sent battering waves into beachfront hotels and innundated many low lying areas. One French news report said the beach at Cancun had been completely washed away.
The storm is responsible for at least 6 deaths in Mexico and an unknown number of injuries. More than 30,000 tourists were still stranded in shelters and boarded up hotels, as authorities began the task of cleaning up the debris and restoring electrical power. Many supposedly “hurricane proof” buildings have lost their roofs and broken glass from shattered windows litters the streets.
Farther away from the resort center, where a large population lives in poverty, the heavy rains and mudslides washed out a number of roads and bridges and destroyed numerous makeshift dwellings.
The poor will be largely left to their own devices, as workers concentrate on repairing the damages done to the resorts. The damage is significant, and will no doubt give rise to substantial claims for repairs and possibly business interruption. Cancun and the surrounding area is one of the most popular destinations for foreign tourists in Mexico. The large luxury hotels, restaurants and other facilities are therefore commensurate with international standards. Many are owned by large corporations, and are therefore insured against losses.
Meanwhile, Cuba is preparing for Wilma’s arrival, as are the authorities in Florida (See related article). Wilma has regained strength after passing over the Yucatan peninsula, and is now classified as a category three hurricane. The storm’s center will pass somewhat north of the island, but heavy rains, strong winds and high tides will still cause a lot of damage; The Cuban government has evacuated more than 600,000 people away from coastal areas, where several villages have already been flooded by storm surges.
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