Hurricane Dean weakens over Mexico

Storm could pick up strength again as it heads towards Gulf of Mexico oilfields.

    Streets were flooded, trees felled and roofs blown
    off houses when Dean made landfall [AFP]

    Meanwhile forecasters have warned that the roaring winds and torrential rains could pick up again as Dean headed out into the southern Gulf of Mexico late on Tuesday, threatening Mexico's oil installations.
    It is expected to make landfall on the Mexican mainland on Wednesday.
    As the storm neared earlier this week, Mexico's state oil company closed and evacuated 407 oil and gas wells, meaning lost production of 2.65 million barrels of crude a day.
    Dean had been a potentially disastrous category five hurricane when it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula but was downgraded to category one as it moved inland.
    It flooded streets, toppled trees, ripped of roofs and downed power lines but there were no immediate reports of any fatalities in Mexico.
    "No human losses have been reported until now," Felipe Calderon, Mexico's president, said after returning from a summit early to deal with the situation.
    Mexican troops have been struggling to clear blocked roads to check on remote Mayan community villages.


    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

    "We often see that when a storm weakens, people let down their guard completely. You shouldn't do that," Jamie Rhome at the US National Hurricane Centre, said.
    "This storm probably won't become a category five again, but it will still be powerful."

    Resorts like Playa del Carmen and Cancun, which were devastated by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, appeared to escape major damage from Dean.

    Tens of thousands of tourists fled over the weekend before the storm hit the so-called "Mayan Riviera", famous for white beaches, clear waters and Mayan ruins.

    Those that stayed were crammed into hotels converted into emergency shelters.

    "I didn't sleep, I had backache," Massimiani Luca, an Italian tourist, said.
    "There were nine of us in this room, eight in that room."

    Water surged down a main street at thigh level in Chetumal, a city of about 150,000 people near where Dean made landfall.

    Power in the city was cut off when the hurricane's sustained winds of 265kph and gusts of up to 320kph knocked over dozens of power lines and trees.
    The aluminium roofs of some houses were blown off.

    Dean swiped Jamaica at the weekend with fierce winds and pelting rain, killing two people and taking the storm death toll to eleven.
    Haiti was worst hit with four people dead.
    It is likely to cost insurers up to $1.5bn with the majority of claims coming from damage caused in Jamaica, disaster-modelling firm Risk Management Solution said.

    Dean was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall since record keeping began in the 1850's.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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