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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
UK tourists spared full hurricane
Hurricane Dean
The major tourist resorts in Mexico were spared a direct hit
Thousands of UK tourists in Mexico have escaped the full force of Hurricane Dean which has devastated parts of the Caribbean, claiming at least 11 lives.

The hurricane hit land around 0900 BST with 160mph winds but it passed to the south of Cancun where around 5,500 British holidaymakers are staying.

The resort has been thrashed by very strong winds and rain.

Two Royal Navy vessels are heading to Belize, where the damage is expected to be greater.

The storm intensified into the highest category, five, as it approached the Mexican coast but it weakened to a category three after hitting land, the US National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane was then further downgraded to a category one storm over Mexico.

The Foreign Office withdrew its advice against all travel to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands on Tuesday.

The MoD said that as the Cayman Islands did not suffer any significant damage from Hurricane Dean, two Royal Navy vessels in the region, HMS Portland and RFA Wave Ruler, would prepare to offer assistance to Belize.

'Hunkered down'

More than 100 British servicemen in Belize have been taking refuge in a hurricane shelter at their base, 90 miles (145km) south of the eye of Hurricane Dean.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Germain, of Batsub - the British Army Training Support Unit Belize - told BBC News: "We are currently hunkered down in a hurricane shelter in our barracks.

View path of Hurricane Dean in more detail

"We are lucky. It's a vast hurricane and people not very far from us will be experiencing a terrible time.

"The low-lying areas on the coast will be experiencing stronger winds than we are and severe flooding. They are expecting 20 inches of rain, 160mph winds and tidal surges of 12 feet."

He added that the base had spent a few days preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Dean and that their families and helicopters had been moved inland.

David Spires, acting British high commissioner in Belize, said people had been strongly advised to leave their homes.

"We understand that most people have taken that option, although one or two people are battening down the hatches and deciding to ride out the storm," he said.

'Power gone'

Briton David Connelly, who lives on a farm in Dangriga, Belize, has been keeping up with events 150 miles (241km) to the north in Corozal on local radio.

My parents were in Cancun but were evacuated - I'm just glad they got a on a plane, as many tourists had to wait it out.
Olivia, Sheffield
BBC News website reader

Stafford-born Mr Connelly said: "It's remained pretty quiet where we are but up in the north, we've heard a lot of properties have been damaged by the hurricane.

"They're saying that a lot of the buildings in Corozal town have been blown over and a nightclub has had the roof of another building land on top of it.

"Power supplies in the north have gone completely and the electricity company is trying to put that right."

Dahlia Castillo, owner of Tony's Inn & Beach Resort in Corozal said: "We have evacuated our guests, and we are putting up everything we can put up.

"Then we need to get ourselves somewhere safe, because we are right by the water."

Chetumal in Mexico after Hurricane Dean
Chetumal in Mexico was badly affected by Hurricane Dean

Graham Lancaster, from the Federation of Tour Operators, said the tourists in Cancun were likely to endure the equivalent of a tropical storm and the resort was not likely to suffer any structural damage.

About 3,000 British tourists were evacuated from Cancun in recent days, ahead of the hurricane.

Mr Lancaster added: "Holiday companies sent empty planes to take people home. The majority of those that are still there are staying in their hotels, although some have been moved to hurricane shelters."

Advice line

Meanwhile, airports in Jamaica remain closed and electricity supplies turned off after the storm hit on Sunday.

An estimated 5,000 holidaymakers in Jamaica saw trees uprooted and roofs torn apart after the south coast of the island was battered by winds of up to 230km/h (145mph).

FOREIGN OFFICE TRAVEL ADVICE
Jamaica: All but essential travel to Kingston advised against
Mexico: All but essential travel to the Yucatan peninsula advised against
Belize: All but essential travel to the coastal area advised against

Some hotels were evacuated, curfews were imposed and the national grid was shut down.

Marcia Sinclair, director of emergencies at the Red Cross in Jamaica, said early signs suggested the damage caused was not as bad as predicted.

The Foreign Office said damage from Hurricane Dean to infrastructure on the Cayman Islands was "minimal".

But added there had been "extensive damage" to infrastructure and power in the Jamaican capital Kingston, resulting in a state of emergency being declared.

It has advised against all but essential travel to Kingston.

The British High Commission in Jamaica has set up a 24-hour phone line for UK nationals seeking advice.

Advice line for UK nationals: (00 1 876) 510 0700


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