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Emily torments Yucatan residents, resorts



Published: Tue, July 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The storm hit the peninsula Sunday afternoon.

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AP) -- Hurricane Emily ripped roofs off luxury hotels along Mexico's Mayan Riviera, stranded thousands of tourists and left hundreds of local residents homeless Monday, forcing many to remain in crowded, leaky shelters.

Residents of Yucatan Peninsula resorts, including Playa del Carmen and Tulum, began wading through knee-deep flood waters to assess damage under a light drizzle, as the storm barreled west into the Gulf of Mexico.

There were no immediate reports of death or serious injuries on the peninsula, but Emily was expected to regain strength and threaten Mexican oil rigs before slamming into northeast Mexico or southern Texas as early as tonight.

Seeking safety

From the port of Tampico to the southern Texas coastline, residents boarded up windows and evacuated low-lying areas. Mexico's state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, evacuated 15,000 oil workers from rigs in the storm's path.

The worst damage on the Yucatan Peninsula was in Puerto Aventuras, where the storm's eye came ashore some 60 miles south of the resort of Cancun, and in Tulum, a collection of thatched hut hotels along a secluded strip of beach that is popular with backpackers.

Sitting in the roofless, rain-soaked lobby of the Copacabana Hotel near Puerto Aventuras, Samuel Norrod, of Livingston, Tenn., waited to hear if his travel agent could get flights home for him, his wife and his 13-year-old granddaughter.

They rode out the storm in the hotel's ballroom.

"We could hear the windows smashing out. The wind would get loud, and then it would get soft again. And then, for about 25 minutes, it got real still," Norrod said, describing the calm eye of the hurricane.

Far from home

Nearby, Remigio Kamul, 21, surveyed the remains of his family's collection of five shacks. Only a brick room remained standing.

"We just want to have a roof over our heads again," he said.

The large family crowded into the brick room during the storm.

"The children were crying," said Kamul's mother, 46-year-old Maria Concepciona. "We were hugging each other. The door was banging in the wind."

Tourists who spent the night in makeshift shelters emerged to try to find ways home. Many went to the Cancun airport, which reopened Monday after closing Sunday afternoon when the storm hit.

"All night long, cold water was pouring in through the holes in the wall," said tourist Graham Brighton, of Leicester, England, one of about 1,000 people who spent the night on thin foam pads lined up on a gymnasium floor in Cancun. "There were just far too many people crammed into one space."




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