Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Mexican resorts lose beachfront to Hurricane Dean

TOURISM Cancun saw its precious sand, replenished at a cost of millions after Hurricane Wilma two years ago, washed away again with the passage of Dean


Hurricane Dean may have spared Cancun a direct hit, but its fierce waves washed significant amounts of sand from about one-third of its beachfront, exposing rocks along one section.

Along 12km of the 31km hotel zone, sand has disappeared or receded well past the 20m limit between hotels and the ocean that authorities require.

Mexico spent millions of dollars replenishing the sand two years ago after Hurricane Wilma.

At Playa Ballenas, next to Le Meridien and the Cancun Palace hotels, rocks are exposed and the sand completely washed away.

"A lot of beach was lost," said Jaime Gonzalez Cano, director of Isla Mujeres National Park. "What we can offer tourists at this moment are rocks with a very small amount of sand."

Dean killed 20 as it charged across the Caribbean. Another 12 deaths are being attributed to the storm in Mexico, where the hurricane hit the Yucatan Peninsula as the third most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever, Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordoba said on Friday.

The hurricane steered south of the glitzy Riviera Maya and Cancun, the region's economic engine, and state tourism officials said Dean caused little damage to the area's tourist attractions.

An Associated Press reporter walked along the strip to survey the damage. Two strips of public beach, Playa Delfines and Playa Gaviota Azul, had less than 6m between hotels and the ocean. Playa Marlin had between 6m and 7m of sand.

At Playa Ballenas, where, in February last year, more than 220 million pesos (then equivalent to US$20 million) were spent renourishing 20m of beach, waves now lap at the feet of beachfront hotels.

Last year, authorities placed at least 3 million cubic meters of sand along the 12km stretch between Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc -- the same stretch that eroded during Hurricane Dean.

Calls to state tourism and environmental officials seeking comment were not returned on Friday.

The latest weather-related deaths were reported in central Hidalgo state, where the remains of Dean dumped torrential rains starting on Wednesday.

Hidalgo state authorities said three people were killed. A 33-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter died after a landslide buried their house in the town of Tlahuelompa. The third victim was a 44-year-old man who drowned after being caught in a swollen river current in San Agustin Tlaxiaca.

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