- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CANCUN, MEXICO Tourists fleeing Hurricane Rina crowded Cancun’s airport Wednesday, even as the storm lost some of its punch on its way to Mexico’s resort-studded Caribbean coast.

Authorities evacuated some fishing communities and closed schools along Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and NASA cut short an undersea laboratory mission near Key Largo, Fla., bringing the crew back to land.

Rina is forecast to remain a hurricane as it sweeps along Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations - Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya - on Thursday, though forecasters predicted it will continue to weaken.

Rina’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 85 mph Wednesday afternoon, down from 110 mph earlier in the day. It was about 190 miles south-southeast of the island of Cozumel and was moving to the west-northwest at about 5 mph.

Lines snaked to the ticket counters in the Cancun airport as jumbo airliners headed to Canada and Europe waited in the pouring rain.



Janet Gallo, 41, of New York, decided to cut short her five-day trip to Playa del Carmen.

“At the hotel, they told us they would make a decision whether to evacuate later today, but we didn’t want to wait. We would rather be home when it hits,” she said.

Hundreds of residents from the fishing town of Punta Allen were taken to emergency shelters and a smaller group was evacuated from the atoll of Banco Chinchorro on Tuesday.

Luh McDevitt, 56, a furniture and interior designer in Cozumel, said her family was fitting hurricane shutters to the house and securing furniture.

“I am not really scared,” said the Cincinnati native who has lived in Cozumel since 2000.

“Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a Category 5. The worst part of the hurricane is after. We didn’t have electric in our house for three weeks.”

The Mexican government announced that it is sending nearly 2,400 electrical workers, plus cranes, vehicles and generators to repair and maintain services as quickly as possible after the storm passes.

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