Mexico, Cuba survey damage

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | September 23, 2002



"Heavy rainfall remains the primary threat from the storm over parts of Mexico."

—Tom Hazelwood


Hurricane Isidore slammed the Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend with heavy rain and howling winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.

"Heavy rainfall remains the primary threat from the storm over

parts of Mexico," said Tom Hazelwood of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, adding that Isidore has been over land for more than 12 hours.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, hundreds of thousands of people

were left without power Monday morning. High winds ripped up trees, tore off roofs, and littered highways with debris.

With telephone service still largely cut off and many roads impassable, Mexican government officials Monday had little idea of the extent of the damage.

When Isidore initially hit the Yucatan shore, the storm was packing 125-mph winds. Officials hurriedly tried to evacuate some 70,000 people from the most vulnerable coastal areas.

With a sudden turn inland late Sunday afternoon, the storm's center just missed Merida, Yucatan's state capital. Still, Merida's 800,000 residents were looking at shattered windows, downed trees and power lines, and collapsed balconies.

Many schools were turned into shelters as coastal areas took up to 20 inches of rain. The coastal town of Progreso reported some destroyed homes.

More than 8,000 oil workers were evacuated from drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Isidore's wrath was also felt far to the south, as Nicaraguan officials reported outer bands of rain from the storm caused flooding there that killed two people and forced others to evacuate.

Isidore also caused flooding in western Cuba over the weekend. "The major thing is damage to tobacco crops," said Richard Erstad, director for Latin American/Caribbean programs at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). AFSC has a long history of responding to needs in Cuba.

"Cuba is still recovering from Hurricane Michelle, which caused

$1.8 billion in damage last year," added Hazelwood.

Isidore's winds had weakened to 70 mph Monday morning but as the storm headed west and out over warm Gulf waters, U.S. emergency officials said it could still become a monster storm with potential to turn north and devastate Gulf Coast states.

Hurricane Isidore slammed the Yucatan Peninsula over the weekend with heavy rain and howling winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.


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