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Looting in Cancun

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051023/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/wilma_mexico Looting Breaks Out in Wilma s Wake By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer 38 minutes ago
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 23, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051023/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/wilma_mexico

      Looting Breaks Out in Wilma's Wake

      By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer 38 minutes
      ago

      CANCUN, Mexico - Mexicans and stranded tourists,
      hungry and frustrated after a two-day beating by
      Hurricane Wilma, stood in line to buy supplies Sunday
      or simply raided grocery or furniture stores, dragging
      goods from shops ripped open by the storm.

      The hurricane's steady march toward southern Florida
      meant an end here to two days of howling winds and
      torrential rains that shattered windows, peeled away
      roofing and sent the ocean crashing into hotel
      lobbies. The sun emerged over Mexico's sugar-white
      Caribbean beaches.

      But another kind of chaos took over, as police shot
      into the air to scare looters away from a shopping
      center, and looters responded by throwing rocks and
      chucks of concrete.

      Downtown, officials feared looters would turn on
      tourists, so they quickly evacuated more than 30
      foreigners from a downtown area overrun by people
      raiding stores. Military officials and police stood
      guard outside businesses and set up checkpoints to
      seize stolen goods.

      "It's chaos," said fire official Gregorio Vergara.
      "They are taking things all over the city."

      One group of residents pushed carts against the
      boarded-up windows of a grocery store in an attempt to
      break in. At a convenience store, Cancun resident Alex
      Aguilar took batteries and aspirin.

      "The window was broken, so we just went in and got
      what we wanted," he said.

      Others waited in long lines at the few stores that
      were open. Some American tourists without local
      currency offered $100 bills for $5 calling cards.

      Meanwhile, military aid convoys rolled into the resort
      town, handing out bottled water and medical aid. City
      officials distributed food packages of rice, beans,
      crackers and cooking oil to people standing in lines
      that stretched for blocks.

      Larry Lowman, of Beaufort, S.C., carried away armloads
      of emergency supplies for the shelter where he was
      staying.

      "It's an expedition to bring food for everybody," he
      said.

      There was little food left on the isolated island of
      Cozumel, as well, making some people anxious.

      "Right now, there is nothing to buy on the island,"
      resident Daniela Ayala told The Associated Press by
      telephone. "People are in the streets looking for
      food, and they are starting to get desperate."

      The storm knocked out many of the island's docks,
      making it difficult for navy ships to arrive. State
      officials were trying to clear airstrips on Cozumel
      and nearby Isla Mujeres so that planes could land with
      aid. President Vicente Fox said the government would
      send helicopters, as well.

      State officials said at least three people died during
      the storm: one by a falling tree and two others when a
      gas tank exploded. Four badly decomposed bodies were
      also found floating in flood waters on Cozumel, but
      officials said it was unclear if the deaths were
      related to the storm.

      Last week, Wilma killed 13 people in Jamaica and
      Haiti.

      The hurricane, which had weakened to a Category 2
      after making landfall, returned to open waters Sunday
      and continued its steady march toward southern
      Florida. It drenched western Cuba with heavy rains and
      flooded communities along the coast. Officials had
      evacuated more than 625,000 people from their homes in
      recent days.

      Rainfall of up to 15 inches was possible in some parts
      of the country, but Wilma was not expected to make
      landfall, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

      For those in Mexico who endured two days of Wilma's
      howling winds and torrential rains, the cleanup began
      on Sunday. Soldiers used bulldozers to clear tree
      branches from roads. Residents waded through submerged
      streets to check damage to homes or try to start
      flooded cars. Tourists tried to make arrangements to
      return home.

      Dennis Catesby, of Coventry, England, hiked from a
      downtown shelter back to his hotel room with some
      friends to raid the minibar of beer and supplies. They
      decided against staying at the hotel, though, and
      hiked back to the shelter, stopping only to snap a
      photo in front of a smashed, roadside Jacuzzi.

      "After three days in a shelter, it was minibar time
      for us," said Catesby, who was married in Cancun on
      Monday. "The beer is going to be free today."

      Fox toured damaged areas on Sunday and said he would
      ask lawmakers to budget $1.1 billion in disaster
      relief funds for 2006, in part to help Mexico recover
      from Wilma. He said his main priority was rebuilding
      roads and other infrastructure to revive the country's
      $11 billion tourism industry, which took a devastating
      blow.

      It was unclear when the Cancun airport would be
      operating again, and many hotels could take weeks — if
      not months — to repair.

      As Mexico's military sent amphibious vehicles and
      federal police began arriving to keep the peace, the
      U.S. Embassy dispatched consular officials to shelters
      to help tourists prepare to leave. The U.S. government
      also offered $200,000 in aid.

      In Florida, meanwhile, residents streamed out of the
      Keys and coastal communities under mandatory
      evacuation orders after officials posted a hurricane
      warning for the southern part of the state. The
      Bahamas also issued a hurricane warning for the
      northwestern part of the country.

      Also Sunday, the Dominican Republic and Haiti received
      heavy rains when Tropical Storm Alpha made landfall,
      then later weakened into a tropical depression. Days
      of rain from Wilma had already swollen rivers and
      saturated the soil in the countries, prompting
      concerns about flash floods and mudslides.

      Officials used the Greek alphabet to name Alpha — the
      record-setting 22nd named storm of the Atlantic season
      — after running all the way through the 2005 storm
      name list. The hurricane season ends next month.

      ___

      On the Net:

      National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov
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