Hurricane Dean Soaks Mexico's Coast

Hurricane Dean roared ashore on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early Tuesday, carrying sustained winds of 165 mph and causing storm surges of 12 to 18 feet. But it hit a relatively unpopulated area of the coastline, and then weakened.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

It was the strongest storm to hit Mexico in decades. A category five with wind gusts up to 200 miles per hour. But so far, it seems the damage from Hurricane Dean in Mexico has been limited to property. There have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries. It did kill 13 people in the Caribbean earlier.

BLOCK: Dean has now been downgraded to a category one storm, but it may gain strength again as it crosses into the Gulf of Mexico heading toward major offshore oil installations. It is then charted to make a second landfall farther north.

Coming up, we'll here from the governor of the Mexican state where Dean came ashore. First, here's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro from Mexico City.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was perhaps a blessing that Dean missed Mexico's major tourist areas like Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 caused billions of dollars of damage at the lifeblood of the Yucatan Peninsula. Whole beaches in Cozumel and Cancun were wiped out. Still, the area where Dean did make landfall close to the Belize border and the town of Chetumal is home to some of the most vulnerable people in the state of Quintana Roo.

The Mayan Indians there live in thatched huts and have largely been bypassed by the explosion of tourism wealth. Thousands of them are believed to have braved the storm in remote areas and it may take days to know how everyone fared.

Chetumal itself has been left without power and some of the roofs were torn off houses. Water reaching thigh-high has flooded many of the streets of this low-lying state capital city of 150,000.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon left the North American Summit early to return to Mexico from Canada. His country is facing more of Dean. The storm will be touching down again farther up the coast in the state of Veracruz as probably a much weaker category two. Still, that area is mountainous and mudslides are a concern.

Even though for now the damage to infrastructure does not seem to be substantial, Mexico has suffered some serious financial losses due to Dean. Over 400 rigs in its major oil and gas-producing region in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated, meaning the production of 2.7 million barrels of oil a day has been halted.

Dean is one of the strongest storms on record to have ever hit land. But it seems that Mexico's Yucatan was spared a catastrophe.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Mexico City.

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