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Storm Leaves Yucatan Resorts Flooded

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm John Ydstie.

Hurricane Wilma this morning moved slowly away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and out over the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds close to 100 miles per hour. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predict Wilma will gradually regain some of its strength as it increases speed and heads for landfall on the west coast of Florida tomorrow morning. Wilma lingered over the Yucatan for more than 30 hours, swamping luxury resorts and flooding local villages. At least seven people in Mexico were reported killed by the storm. Earlier this morning we spoke with NPR's Carrie Kahn from Yucatan's capital, Merida, and she described the storm's impact there.

CARRIE KAHN reporting:

Damage in this state is severe. It's mostly from flooding. At least one person died here after being struck by a tree. I don't know if you can hear it, but outside the hotel the winds are still howling but the rain has pretty much subsided. And last night, people were venturing out on the streets as normal. The cafes were full and it looked like a normal windy evening. Mostly the problems in the capital for tourists who are lucky to get out before the hurricane from the coastal resorts and they've been packing the airport trying to get flights out. I talked to several yesterday as I came in and they were just tired and frustrated and most weren't able to get a flight out until next week.

YDSTIE: Mm-hmm. What reports have you been able to get from the harder-hit areas out on the coast?

KAHN: Well, that's where the reports are very grim. Just terrible flooding. Rescues. Just storm damage that we've seen images in the United States. We're getting kind of used to that this last month, but just trees down, power lines. Some of the most stark images are of the luxury resorts, as you said, on that strip of the coast right on Cancun. All the hotels are on this narrow strip of sandy beaches and the beach is just wiped out and the ocean is meshed with the lagoon there. There were even reports of alligators that had come into the city there.

There was a lull in the storm yesterday afternoon, an eerie lull as the eye moved over Cancun and people did venture out. There are reports of looting. There are also reports of people just trying to get some sort of food, water but carrying other non-essential items, too, but just a lot of reports of people that are in these hot, sweltering shelters, but that have had to seek refuge from there because their roofs are caving in. There's just a harrowing story of people holed up in a multiplex in Cancun, having to move from theater to theater as the roof falls in and finally taking refuge under the garage, a concrete garage. Not a nice sight there. Reports are difficult to assess because communication has just been cut to these areas.

YDSTIE: NPR's Carrie Kahn in the Yucatan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.