Looting in Cancun
Looting Breaks Out in Wilma's Wake
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer 38 minutes
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
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
"It's an expedition to bring food for everybody," he
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
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
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
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
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