Sullen tourists grabbed sleep in damp shelters and played cards by candlelight after Hurricane Wilma turned their vacations in Mexico’s Caribbean playground into a soggy nightmare
Wind smashed windows at an international hotel in the beach resort of Cancun and water gushed into rooms, forcing guests to try to sleep in bathrooms or corridors.
“The wind blew the door off the hinges so I moved the mattress into the hallway,” said caterer Steve McGlawn from California, trying to rest with his wife and children while winds roared in the dark outside.
Rainwater poured down the elevator shaft into the lobby and American tourists tried to repair boarded-up windows broken by high wind gusts at a conference room in the hotel being used as a shelter.
Wilma, a dangerous Category 4 hurricane, slammed into the “Maya Riviera” of long, white beaches and huge hotels, on Friday with screaming winds that knocked over houses and upturned trees. It was due to hit Florida on Sunday or Monday.
Thousands of tourists were trapped in cramped shelters on the Mexican coast for the second night in a row. European visitors who had been in good spirits on Thursday began to grow ill-tempered as the storm raged on.
This waiting is no game
“The trouble is, you don’t know how long it is going to go on for. You don’t know anything,” said glum Swiss vacationer Christen Jasmin, 19, sitting in the half light in the dining room of a hotel in the Playa del Carmen resort.
“It’s boring,” complained her boyfriend Ruesch Matthias.
Hotel staff tried to keep spirits up by handing out free coffee and sandwiches.
Water was cut, off so guests drew water from the swimming pool with buckets to use in the toilet.
Contact was lost for more than an hour with the island of Cozumel, one of the world’s top scuba diving spots, when winds knocked over a telephone mast.
The wind and rain ripped out lush, tropical vegetation.
“My trees are down, my mango, my avocado, my mamey tree is down, some of my palm trees are down,” said Kathleen Martin Kopelman, owner of the Amigo’s Bed and Breakfast five blocks from the ocean on Cozumel.
Many tourists had never seen anything like the awesome power of Wilma, a slow-moving storm that briefly broke a record for low barometric pressure earlier this week.
“I’ve been in blizzards but this goes on for ages,” said Brooke Costello, a honeymooning New Yorker.