Archive for Friday, October 28, 2005

Resort islands slow to recover after Wilma

October 28, 2005

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— Mexico's Caribbean coastline took a beating from Hurricane Wilma, but the resort area's islands - famous for their diving and snorkeling - bore the brunt of the storm, with extensive damage to reefs and white-sand beaches.

A U.S. cruise ship was sent Thursday to the island of Cozumel to deliver aid and pick up any remaining stranded Americans, but most tourists appeared to have left the islands.

Even in Cancun, lines at makeshift airline ticket counters had nearly vanished, and there were only a few visitors enjoying the sun before heading home.

Mexican President Vicente Fox arrived in Cancun to discuss his plan to have 80 percent of the resort up and running by Dec. 15, and the U.S. Embassy announced an extra $300,000 in aid for Wilma's victims.

"The recent natural disasters that have devastated parts of the United States and Mexico strengthened the cooperation and determination of our countries and governments to work together," said U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza.

Yet, despite the signs of progress, many residents were left behind. On Isla Mujeres, people complained of limited access to drinking water and homes destroyed by high winds, waves and flooding.

Mexico's Environmental Department said Wilma ripped into coral reefs and damaged more than 1 million acres of trees on the Yucatan peninsula, creating fuel for possible forest fires in the upcoming dry season.

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