USA / MEXICO: Hurricane weary Florida cleans up yet again, as tourists flee Cancun
- Title: USA / MEXICO: Hurricane weary Florida cleans up yet again, as tourists flee Cancun
- Date: 26th October 2005
- Summary: (BN17) CANCUN, MEXICO (OCTOBER 25, 2005) (REUTERS) TOURISTS GATHERED IN GROUP, WAITING FOR CAR TO TAKE THEM TO THE AIRPORT SECURITY GUARD MANNING BLOCKED ROAD DIRECTING TOURISTS WHERE TO GO TOURIST SITTING ON THE CURB TOURISTS BEHIND GATE THAT IS BLOCKING THE ENTRANCE TO THE AIRPORT (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIDENTIFIED U.S. TOURIST FROM VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON SAYING: "Yes, I'm about exhausted and everyone's actually been very good, so I don't really have any complaints. Seems like they're handling things as best they can and I'm just trying to be patient because I know there's a lot of other people out there who want to get out as well. So, everybody in their own turn I guess." TOURISTS WAITING IN LINE TO ENTER AIRPORT
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- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Weather
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- Story Text: Southern Florida was reeling on Tuesday (October 25) after enduring a four-hour assault by Hurricane Wilma that cut power to millions of homes and caused billions of dollars in damage. The storm smashed into the state on Monday (October 24) as a surprisingly strong Category 3 hurricane with 125-mph (200-kph) winds, having fed on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico after killing 17 people in a rampage through the Caribbean.
Wilma flooded the low-lying Florida Keys, then hit the mainland south of Naples and sped across to the populous Miami-Fort Lauderdale area on the Atlantic Coast, blasting windows out of high-rise buildings, destroying mobile homes and flipping cars, trucks and planes.
Forecasters said Wilma was the strongest storm to hit the Miami area since August 1992, when Hurricane Andrew caused more than $25 billion in damage. It was the eighth hurricane to strike Florida in 15 months. Wilma's power stunned thousands who had ignored orders to evacuate the Florida Keys. It pushed a wall of seawater about 8 feet (2.4 metres) above normal tides into the island chain off mainland Florida's southern tip, dumping thigh-high water in the streets of Key West, the tourist town made famous by writer Ernest Hemingway. Truck loads of ice and water sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived at the Keys as people without power lined up to pick up the supplies.
Speaking in hard hit Miami, where millions were left with no power, Governor Jeb Bush said recovery efforts will take time. "Life without power is very frustrating. Thankfully a cold front came at the time shortly after the storms, the storm came, which makes it a little more liveable without power, but power makes the world go round. Without power, small businesses go out of business and people lose their jobs," he said.
Desperate tourists scrambled to flee Mexico's Caribbean coast on Tuesday after Hurricane Wilma forced many into damp, stinking shelters for days, devastated resorts and swallowed up famed white beaches. More than 1,000 visitors lined up in the heat at the newly reopened Cancun airport, shouting and arguing as they tried to get aboard the first flights out. Others were happy to wait their turn. "Seems like they're handling things as best they can and I'm just trying to be patient because I know there's a lot of other people out there who want to get out as well. So, everybody in their own turn I guess," said one man from Vancouver, Washington.
Some 4,000 people flew out of Cancun, while 7,000 more departed from the city of Merida. Mexico's Tourism Ministry said all tourists who wanted to leave would be gone by Sunday.
In Mexico City, Red Cross workers began loading up several tonnes of food, water and medicine to distribute to hurricane victims along Mexico's Caribbean coast. Red Cross distribution co-ordinator said the group was organising some 120 tonnes of aid to ship to Merida and Cancun during the week.
In Cuba, residents along Havana's famed Malecon seafront came out of their homes on Tuesday to survey the damage. On Monday (October 24), the area was completely flooded as western Cuba was buffeted by 86-mph (138 kph) wind gusts and spates of torrential rain from hurricane Wilma's outer bands. Parts of the 5-mile (7 km) wall were hidden under the sea. For the most part, the Malecon has reopened and most of the waters have receded, however, a small portion of the seafront remained closed after suffering some damage.
The 2005 hurricane season, fuelled by warmer-than-usual sea temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean, has been a record-breaker, with 22 tropical storms or hurricanes, besting the mark of 21 set in 1933. The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which does not end until Nov. 30, has spawned three of the most intense Atlantic storms on record: Katrina devastated New Orleans in August and killed 1,200, Rita hit the Texas-Louisiana border a few weeks later, and Wilma at one point boasted the lowest barometric pressure reading ever observed in the Atlantic basin.
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- Embargoed:10th November 2005 12:00