Dean races through Mexico's Gulf

Hurricane Dean raced through Mexico's southern Gulf on Wednesday, whipping up wild winds and roaring seas around oil platforms that produce crude for export to the United States.

Dean races through Mexico's Gulf

Hurricane Dean raced through Mexico's southern Gulf on Wednesday, whipping up wild winds and roaring seas around oil platforms that produce crude for export to the United States.

Dean hammered Mexico's Caribbean resort of Tulum and swallowed sand from the famous beach at Cancun before crossing the Yucatan Peninsula out into the Gulf of Mexico where state oil company Pemex has several hundred wells and other installation.

The storm was due to make landfall again on Wednesday afternoon north of Veracruz, a balmy city often compared to Havana. Sugar and coffee grows in the mountains behind the port.

The hurricane, carrying winds near 80 mph (130 kph) , was 155 miles east-northeast of Veracruz early on Wednesday morning. The storm that had diminished to a Category 1 hurricane could intensify before making landfall, the National Hurricane Center said.

Mexico evacuated over 18,000 Pemex staff and shut down 80 percent of its crude production ahead of the arrival of Dean, which was a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane when it first hit land in Mexico's Caribbean coast.

There was no early word on whether oil platforms were damaged as Dean weakened and plowed through Gulf waters in the Campeche Sound.

"Pemex is waiting for the hurricane to pass through the Campeche Sound," spokeswoman Martha Avelar said on Tuesday.

The price of oil tumbled more than 2 percent on Tuesday as Dean weakened over the Yucatan, easing concerns the powerful storm would disrupt Mexican and U.S. oil operations.

INTO SHELTERS

Mexico, one of the top three suppliers of U.S. crude imports, has shut down 2.65 million barrels per day of production -- slightly more than Venezuela's total output -- and closed ports as a precaution.

Dean forced tens of thousands of people, including many tourists, into shelters on the Yucatan Peninsula but there were no reports of deaths or serious damage in Mexico.

Store owners in the city of Veracruz, a historic Gulf port near the site of 16th century Spanish conquerors' first landing in Mexico, boarded up windows.

"There has been panic buying of food in supermarkets," said Gabriela Navarrete, 35, who runs a bar in the port.

Dean destroyed one-bedroom beach cabins and restaurants in the small, arty Caribbean resort of Tulum with strong waves and uprooted palm trees.

Dazed locals wandered across white sands strewn with rocks, garbage and bits of debris from small wooden and concrete huts popular with European and U.S. visitors.

But the "Mayan Riviera" was almost intact compared to the devastation wrought on hotels and tourist sites by Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

"We escaped. It was very light," said Miguel Cruz, 29, a hotel receptionist in the resort of Playa del Carmen.

Water surged down a main street at thigh level in Chetumal, a city of about 150,000 people near where the eye of the hurricane first hit land.

President Felipe Calderon said no deaths were reported in Mexico.

But Jamaican police raised the death toll to three from Dean's brush with the island last weekend. The storm has killed a total of 12 people in its run through the Caribbean.

Heavy rain drenched Belize, a former British colony that is home to some 250,000 people and a famous barrier reef. Sugar canes fields were flattened but there were no deaths reported.

Category 5 hurricanes are rare but there were four in 2005, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.

Reuters

Last Mod: 22 Ağustos 2007, 11:47
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