KEY WEST, Fla. -- Tourists evacuated the Florida Keys prior to the
expected arrival of Hurricane Georges. On Tuesday, local officials
recommended visitors fly out before the storm disrupted air
service. Some tourists and residents drove to safety on the
110-mile road that links the islands.
Meanwhile, Caribbean hoteliers and tourism officials scrambled
to assess damages in the aftermath of Georges' swath through the
region earlier this week. Although telephone and electric services
were sporadic on the Caribbean islands hardest hit by Georges,
early reports Tuesday seemed to indicate that hotel damage was less
than originally feared. However, private homes and residences took
a heavy hit. Access to roads and highways was difficult because of
downed telephone poles, power lines and debris.
Following are the latest damage reports:
Georges killed three people, shut down 80% of the power and
knocked out all telephone service on the island.
Jorge Davila, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.,
said that most hotels had contingency plans in place before the
storm hit. Many guests were evacuated or moved to shelters as was
the case at the 392-room El San Juan Hotel & Casino, five
minutes from the airport. That property will be open for business
this weekend. The property's centuries-old huge Banyan tree in the
garden courtyard ended up in the pool but will be replanted,
according to general manager John Russell.
El Conquistador Resort & Country Club suffered no structural
damage but does have glass and landscape damage. Richard Cortese,
general manager, said all roofs are intact, telephone lines are up
and there is hot and cold running water. "The resort will be fully
functional within a few days," Cortese said. The property had 180
guests at the property at the time of the storm. All are fine and
will be booked out on the first available flights.
Only minor damage was reported at the Westin Rio Mar, Embassy
Suites, Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort, Marriott San Juan and Wyndham
Palmas del Mar. All are fully operational. The Ritz-Carlton San
Juan had some damage to landscaping and carpets and had sand in the
pool. The resort is not taking reservations through Oct. 1; guests
booked for the next week are being accommodated elsewhere. The 48
guests at the hotel during the storm were accommodated in a meeting
room powered by an emergency generator. El Canario by the Sea, El
Prado Inn and the Regency are closed and have not set reopening
Initial reports indicated damage to the passenger terminals and
one runway at the airport. American Airlines will operate 16
flights to Puerto Rico between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 23.
Continental will have three daily flights between Newark and San
Juan as of Sept. 23.
Tourism director David Fernandez reported infrastructure damage
to telephone and utility systems as well as extensive damage to
property and several churches. The airport is open but limited to
flights between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Club International's Club Antigua had minor flooding and roof
damage and will reopen by Nov. 21. Guests will be accommodated at
Club St. Lucia in the meantime. Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa
sustained "cosmetic damage" and will close until Dec. 1 for
repairs. Under the resort's hurricane insurance policy, all guests
whose vacations were interrupted by the storm will get a
replacement trip free of charge at a later date. Galley Bay resort
and St. James Club will reopen Oct. 21. Jolly Harbour Marina Club
Villas are open on an EP basis to Nov. 20 when the inclusive option
is available. The Royal Antiguan is open to relief workers;
operators should not book clients until after Oct. 4. Jumby Bay had
no structural damage and will reopen on schedule Dec. 16.
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Kitts reported extensive damage to the airport and private
homes. A curfew was in effect after the storm. Jack Tar Village had
substantial wind and water damage to guest room buildings and
public areas. The hotel is closed; no reopening date is set. The
Four Seasons Resort Nevis will close for water and landscaping
repairs. It will reopen Nov. 1.
A mudslide closed the road temporarily between the capital of
Roseau on the southwest coast and Portsmouth in the northwest.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
There was road flooding and "fairly minimal damage," a tourism
U.S. Virgin Islands
Most hotel guests left the island before the storm hit.
Remaining guests on St. John and St. Thomas were moved to large
properties such as Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and the Renaissance
Grand Beach Resort, both of which were hurricane-proofed after the
St. Croix's Buccaneer resort, the largest on the island, had
only minor damage, according to Elizabeth Armstrong, general
Airports on St. Thomas and St. Croix were to reopen yesterday,
with commercial flights operating on today. The islands reported
fairly light damage to hotels, although telephone and electric
service remained out at press time. Major roads are passable.
British Virgin Islands
Peter Island resort will reopen Oct. 15 after repairs to
landscaping. All other BVI hotels are open as usual. Biras Creek,
closed for expansion, will reopen Oct. 23 as scheduled.
Malliouhana Hotel, closed for annual refuribishment, will reopen
Nov. 21 instead of Nov. 1.
Amy Spiezio contributed to this report.