By James Blears – Mexico City
The international tourism gem of Tulum, in Mexico’s south, was the first to feel the fist-like brunt of Hurricane Grace on Thursday, after it had already smashed into Jamaica and then earthquake-stricken Haiti.
Done with them, it retreated back to sea, re-gathered its strength, and returned, making lethal landfall in the south-eastern Gulf coast state of Vera Cruz.
There it caused severe flooding, pulling down power lines, plunging more than half a million people into darkness, and killing eight people.
Six of the dead came from a single family, as their home collapsed along with another due to mudslides. Others are missing.
The state capital of Xalapa is severely flooded as River Acopan burst its banks and coursed into residential areas.
Closer to the coast and not that far away, lighter boats were dragged on to land by prudently anxious fishermen. Pleasure boats followed suit, while bigger, heavier vessels were sailed and chugged into harbour.
Weakened, but still packing a punch
Mercifully Grace is weakening over land, lessening to a tropical storm category two and now one, but it still carries the venom of real danger.
Some flights in Mexico City International Airport have been cancelled and the capital, plus its surrounding outlying areas which is home to more than twenty million people, is bracing itself for high winds and torrential rains.
The storm is expected to hit the capital late Sunday afternoon, as leaden skies overhead prepare to unload, dumping heavy, sweeping belts of rain.
Worsening hurricane season
This ominous season in the Americas has always contained its unwelcome share of annual hurricanes.
But over the past few years, they’ve tended to start earlier and last longer, with greater intensity, as the polluted global climate alters, and for the worse.