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Mexico's Cancun evacuates as Wilma grows, nears
Updated: 2005-10-21 08:51

With Florida the following target, Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency.

National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said Wilma's slowing pace could drag the storm down to a Category 3 or less before it hits Florida's southwest coast Sunday.

Officials on Wednesday began clearing tourists out of the exposed Florida Keys, but postponed evacuation of residents until at least Friday.

Across Florida's southwest coast, people put up shutters, bought canned goods and bottled water and waited in ever-growing lines at gas stations.

Starting with its early stages as a tropical depression over the weekend, Wilma has caused floods and landslides that killed at least 12 people in Haiti and one in Jamaica, according to officials there.

A Cuban man moves a mattress to higher ground as Hurricane Wilma approaches in Batabano, Cuba October 20, 2005.
A Cuban man moves a mattress to higher ground as Hurricane Wilma approaches in Batabano, Cuba October 20, 2005. [Reuters]
Honduras, raked by the storm's outer bands on Wednesday, escaped with no reports of significant damage, according to Juan Jose Reyes, spokesman for the national emergency committee.

In Belize, a nation south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, officials canceled cruise ship visits and tourists were evacuated from islands offshore.

A few miles south of Cancun in Playa del Carmen, executives at the Occidental Grand Flamenco Xcaret gathered customers on Wednesday evening to warn that they might have to be moved to a shelter at the hotel convention center.

Tourists, many clutching drinks and still wearing swimming trunks or suits, groaned audibly when they were told that bars would be closed and smoking banned in the shelters.

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