Mexico still evaluating extent of damage after Hurricane Dean

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Although Cancun's tourism infrastructure was mostly spared by Hurricane Dean when it roared over the Yucatan Peninsula last week, the storm washed away significant amounts of sand from its beaches, exposing rocks and shortening the distance between resorts and the sea in certain areas.

Authorities are still evaluating the extent of the damage to Cancun's beaches, although it's nowhere near as bad as when Hurricane Wilma made a direct hit on the area in October 2005, leading to a $21 million beach restoration project.

One of the hardest hit areas was the town of Majahual and the cruise ship port of Costa Maya, where Dean made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane Aug. 21.

Waves washed away parts of Costa Maya's concrete dock, which can accommodate up to three cruise ships at a time and includes a 70,000-square-foot pavilion with restaurants, entertainment and shops. Cesar Lizarraga, Costa Maya's director of sales and marketing, said that about 50% of the port's infrastructure was damaged by the storm.

Lizarraga said the port could remain closed for up to eight months while its facilities are rebuilt, adding the cost could be in the millions.

Meanwhile, cruise lines are scrambling to substitute calls at other ports in Mexico and elsewhere. Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, scratched Costa Maya for Progreso, Mexico, during the Carnival Fantasy's Aug. 25 five-day cruise out of New Orleans.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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