- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2005

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico — Hurricane Emily ripped roofs off luxury hotels along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, stranded thousands of tourists and left hundreds of residents homeless yesterday, 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 drizzle, as the storm barreled west into the Gulf of Mexico.

There were no 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.

From the port of Tampico, Mexico, to the coastline of Texas, residents boarded up windows and evacuated low-lying areas. Mexico’s state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, 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 about 60 miles south of the resort town 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 whether 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,” Mr. Norrod said, describing the calm eye of the hurricane.

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 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 yesterday after closing Sunday afternoon when the storm hit.

About 60,000 tourists were evacuated from Cancun, Tulum, Playa de Carmen and Cozumel, an island just south of Cancun known for its diving.

Emily hit Mexico after sweeping across the Caribbean, causing flooding that killed a family of four in Jamaica but sparing the Cayman Islands major damage.

The hurricane’s wind speeds soared to as much as 135 mph, making it a Category 4 storm when it slammed into the Yucatan’s east coast Sunday. It weakened to a Category 2 as it passed over the peninsula early yesterday with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

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