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Mexico Cleans Up After Isidore

September 24, 2002

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HECELCHAKAN, Mexico (AP) _ Residents of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula shoveled mud out of their homes and slogged through flooded fields Tuesday as a storm that left two dead and 300,000 homeless moved toward the U.S. Gulf coast.

While residents of vulnerable coastal towns in Louisiana and Mississippi began emptying out, the sun began to break through the clouds and rains eased over the Yucatan peninsula and Tropical Storm Isidore headed out over water.

Archaeologists fanned out for emergency inspections of the region’s hundreds of Mayan ruins, Carlos Macedonio of the Yucatan state archaeology office said.

``We’ve received radio reports from (the Mayan cities of) Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and there was no damage beyond some trees blown down,″ he said.

At the 1,700-year-old Oxkintok ruins, guard Francisco Sanchez said the pyramid and surrounding site had withstood the storm. ``They were already ruins,″ he joked.

Joseta Delgada, a spokeswoman for the state’s ecology office, said officials were still evaluating damage at the region’s many ecological reserves. ``We still don’t have any concrete figures,″ she said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami warned that the storm would likely strengthen into a hurricane again as it moved over the Gulf of Mexico. Projections had it heading north, where hurricane watches were posted along the coast from Cameron, La., to Pascagoula, Miss.

Mexico’s state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos, evacuated more than 8,000 workers from drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. No damage was immediately reported as the storm passed over the installations.

After causing flooding in Cuba, the hurricane skirted the Yucatan coast late Sunday, then veered inland, ripping roofs from homes, flooding homes, and tossing trees onto the colonial boulevards of Yucatan’s capital, Merida, which normally host tourists in horse-drawn carriages.

At least two people were killed in the Yucatan, including a security guard who was electrocuted because of flooding at the Merida airport. The storm caused heavy rains across southern Mexico and northern Central America, and an 8-year-old boy was swept away by a swollen river in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas.

Many small Mayan towns south of Merida bore the brunt of Isidore’s wrath as the storm stalled over the peninsula, dumping rain and buffeting the region with high winds.

``The storm sounded like a jet plane coming in,″ said Angel Manuel Sulub, a 12-year-old Mayan Indian in the town of Hecelchakan, 50 miles southwest of Merida.

Delia Nagal, a 48-year-old grandmother, struggled with a bucket to scoop away water surrounding her home, which was propped up on a brick platform. ``We told the authorities to put drainage in here, but they didn’t listen.″

Cattle ranchers and citrus farmers slogged through waist-high water that had collected in their fields, trying to judge damage and move livestock to higher ground.

Federal and state officials have promised to help residents rebuild, and officials handed out donations of food and water at shelters set up across the state.

In Merida, city workers and residents swept streets, chopped up fallen tree branches and tried to salvage soggy belongings from destroyed homes.

At a shoe store near the city’s plaza, Woalberto Rincon shoveled piles of plaster and metal out into the street after his store’s roof collapsed.

``The display cases were full of water,″ he said. ``The shoes were floating as if they were in a fish bowl.″

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