World

Yucatan begins cleanup as hurricane Emily roars on

Hurricane Emily like a "freight train" as it passed over houses in the Yucatan Peninsula, but left the Mexican resort area relatively unscathed.

People in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula are beginning to clean up after hurricane Emily, which knocked out power, telephones and traffic lights but left people and buildings relatively unscathed.

Emily pounded Cozumel Island, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and other popular tourist spots as it roared through early Monday morning as a Category 4 storm with winds of 217 km/h.

It whipped up huge waves, splintered trees, ripped concrete traffic-light poles from the ground and flung debris everywhere, causing power and phone outages to much of the country's famous Riviera Mayo coastline.

"The eye went right over us," said Susan Ewing, a Canadian who lives on the southern island of Cozumel.

"It was really quite horrific by about 11:30 last night. It was beginning to sound like a freight train was rolling right down the street and over our house.

"You could hear a lot of objects banging into the plywood that covered our windows," Ewing told CBC News by telephone.

She said she emerged to find that Emily had scattered trees and branches all over the neighbourhood, blocking many of the main roads. The hurricane also left them without electricity, among other damages.

The storm didn't cause much damage to buildings because they're built with concrete blocks reinforced by steel bars and a covering of concrete, Ewing said.

"We all have an awful lot of damage to deal with in our yards, but as far as our houses and families go, we're all fine."

Gabriela Aragay, who lives in Playa del Carmen, said her family hid in their home listening to the strong winds.

"We moved furniture and got inside a bedroom and stayed there all night, listening to things smashing on the floor, windows breaking," said Aragay.

Only two hurricane-related deaths had been reported in Mexico by late Monday. Two pilots were killed when strong winds brought down their helicopter while removing oil rig workers from an offshore platform.

Emily had caused the deaths of several people several days earlier as it pummelled much of the Caribbean, including Grenada, Aruba, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Tourists 'exhausted' after miserable night in shelters

Cancun escaped the brunt of the storm, which passed over Cozumel before heading to Playa del Carmen, along Mexico's Caribbean coast.

However, the storm caused an uncomfortable night for many of the tens of thousands of people – many of them foreign tourists – who waited it out in emergency shelters set up in hotel ballrooms, gymnasiums and schools.

Mexican authorities had braced for the worst, using hundreds of buses to move 30,000 tourists in Cancun alone to temporary shelters that were often cramped and hot.

CBC reporter Krista Erickson, on holiday in Playa del Carmen, said few people slept in the packed emergency shelter. People woke up screaming around 4:30 a.m. local time as drywall from the building's roof started to collapse, she said.

"Everyone is absolutely exhausted" and want to get back to their rooms on the resort, which appears largely intact, said Erickson.

Brad Klock, a Canadian tourist who was in Playa del Carmen, said he spent 18 hours inside a hotel amphitheatre that had been boarded up from the outside.

He said the night was harrowing, especially because they had been given very little information and were locked in.

"After a fairly long and harrowing light, we're in relatively good spirits," Klock said.

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs said that as many as 3,000 Canadians were stranded in the region because flights were cancelled and airports shut down.

Emily weaker but expected to strengthen

Although it weakened to a Class 1 hurricane while crossing the peninsula, Emily was expected to strengthen again as it churned over the Gulf of Mexico late Monday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is forecasting that the storm will roar ashore in northeast Mexico late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

A hurricane watch has been issued from Cabo Rojo, Mexico, to Baffin Bay, Texas.

Many oil companies shut down their offshore platforms as a precaution, but oil prices in Europe slipped after OPEC issued a report forecasting that growth in world demand for oil would slow.