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Hurricane Delta rips through Cancun, but damage less than feared

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Tourists in Mexico’s top Caribbean resort Cancun picked their way through battered streets, broken glass and trees downed by Hurricane Delta on Wednesday, though damage was less severe than some feared as the storm tore across the Yucatan peninsula.

Delta lost force before it reached land. But thousands of residents and tourists had already retreated into shelters, and flooded roads, overturned boats and debris from shattered windows and roofs bore witness to its power.

One pair of U.S. newlyweds spent a night of their honeymoon taking cover in a private school-turned-shelter.

“We really thought COVID was going to mess up the wedding. We had no idea it was going to be COVID, a hurricane and then another hurricane,” said 50-year-old Ann Ernst, whose honeymoon was first delayed by tropical storm Gamma battering Mexico last week, and then upended by hurricane Delta.

By early afternoon, Delta had passed over the peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, where it was expected to strengthen again and turn north toward Louisiana and Texas, threatening major oil installations.

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Texas native Steven Helling hunkered down in Cancun in his 16th-floor flat overlooking the sea, where he felt the building sway and in the morning discovered his glass balcony railing had been blown out, along with many others in the complex.

“Honest to God, you could feel the building moving... the winds were unbelievable,” said Helling, adding that experiencing a hurricane had been “on my bucket list.”

Fallen trees partially blocked access to Cancun’s strip of five-star hotels. A policeman hacked a path through with an axe. Smaller properties suffered caved in-walls or shattered windows, including a local Banco Azteca bank branch surrounded by shards.

Extremely powerful overnight, Delta had weakened to Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of 110 miles per hour (177 kph), by the time it hit the coast close to Puerto Morelos, a fishing village popular with tourists.

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Retaining a similar strength, it then raked across the Yucatan, an area of jungle, Mayan ruins and modern-day Mayan indigenous towns and villages.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a storm surge warning for parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, including High Island Texas and along to the Alabama-Florida border.

Delta’s arrival was a blow to Mexican efforts to revive tourism battered by the coronavirus pandemic in the surrounding beach-lined state of Quintana Roo.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito in Cancun, Writing by Frank Jack Daniel and Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Nick Zieminski and David Gregorio

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