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Hurricane Dean lashes Mexico coast
Storm is downgraded to Category Two but continues to ravage Mexican peninsula.
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2007 21:24 GMT
Mexicans rest on mattresses in a classroom being used as a shelter in a school in Chetumal [AFP]
Residents of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula have been boarding up homes and businesses, and tens of thousands of tourists have left the area's famous beaches as Hurricane Dean bears down on the region.
 
The storm hit the Mexican coast on Tuesday having left a trail of destruction through the Caribbean, killing at least 12 people.
Daniel Brown, from the US national hurricane centre, said the eye of the storm was on course to reach land just north of Chetumal on Mexico's border with Belize.
 
However, the centre said it had been downgraded to a Category Two storm having previously reached Five on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Food stockpiled
 
In areas such as Playa del Carmen, on Mexico's popular Mayan Riviera holiday strip, tourists have been forced to huddle in shelters.
 
At one hotel, serving as a shelter for 400 people, as many as 12 people were sharing some rooms.
  

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale

Category 1 - Winds 119-153kph
Minor coastal flooding and structural damage

Category 2 – Winds 154-177kph
Damage to roofs, mobile homes and shanty houses. Some trees uprooted. Small boats may break moorings

Category 3 – Winds 178-209kph
Damage to buildings, mobile homes destroyed. Severe flooding near to coast

Category 4 – Winds 210-249kph
Major structural damage, roofs destroyed. Storm surge around 5m requiring widespread evacuation of coastal areas

Category 5 – Winds 249kph or higher
Serious damage to all but strongest buildings. Severe flooding far inland, all trees blown down. Storm surge up to 6m above normal

Emanuela Beriola, 41, an Italian tourist, said: "We could be two or three days without water or electricity."
 
He has stockpiled tinned meat, energy drinks and cans of tuna fish.
  
Christian Muller, a German engineer who is on holiday in the area, said: "I'm not scared. I telephoned my daughter and my mother and they are more worried than me."
 
Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, says he is cutting short a trip to Canada to return home to oversee the response to the storm.
   
Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, who is near the town of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula, said: "The wind is quite strong and we ares still some distance from the centre of the storm.
 
"The emergency services have put police and military personnel on the streets and opened a lot of shelters."
 
Belize braced
 
Mexico's state-owned Pemex oil company abandoned its offshore oil rigs off the coast of Yucatan, evacuating more than 14,000 workers and shutting down production in its main oil-producing region.
 
Pemex warned that temporarily closing its 407 undersea wells would mean a production loss of 2.7m barrels of oil and 2.6bn cubic feet of natural gas a day.
 
Residents of Belize, south of Mexico, are also bracing for the brunt of the storm's power.
 
Authorities have evacuated 6,000 people from the country's main tourist resort, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and another 500 or so from nearby Caye Caulker, said Jan Mohammed, the national emergency coordinator.
 
Belize City's three hospitals have moved high-risk patients to the inland capital, Belmopan, founded after 1961's Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City.
 
Devastation
 
In Jamaica, which has been lashed by the outer bands of Hurricane Dean since early on Sunday, residents were beginning a massive clean-up operation.
 
The National Hurricane Centre
is monitoring Dean [AFP]
Scenes of devastation greeted Jamaicans on Monday and police reported that one man died after his house caved in on him.
 
Shara Barnett, a resident in East Kingston, told the Jamaica Gleaner that she and her family and neighbours were just glad to be alive.
 
"When the water started coming, we run out and went into the house opposite and when we in the house, the water just come in a storm surge of about 50ft," she said.
 
Jamaica was placed on a state of emergency late on Sunday as Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's prime minister, announced that security forces would be granted wider powers following reports of looting across the island.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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