Hurricane Dean loses power after striking Mexican coast

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Hurricane Dean slammed into the Caribbean coast of Mexico yesterday as a roaring Category 5 hurricane, the most intense Atlantic storm to make landfall in two decades. It lashed ancient Mayan ruins and headed for the modern oil installations of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Dean's path was a stroke of luck for Mexico: it made landfall in a sparsely populated coastline that had mostly been evacuated, and skirted most of the major tourist resorts. It weakened within hours to a Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 105mph (165kph).

When Dean struck land near the cruise port of Majahual, it had winds near 165mph (270kph) and gusts that reached 200mph, faster than the takeoff speed of many passenger jets. Then it raced toward the Bay of Campeche, where the state oil company evacuated the offshore rigs that produce most of Mexico's oil and gas.

The storm pushed a surge of seawater 12ft to 18ft above normal tides on to the coast and dumped huge amounts of rain on the low-lying Yucatan Peninsula, where thousands of Mayan Indians live in stick huts in isolated communities.

With the storm still screaming, there were no immediate reports of deaths, injuries or major damage, the Quintana Roo Governor Felix Gonzalez told Mexico's Televisa network, though officials had not been able to survey the area. The governor said 250 small communities had been evacuated, but local media reported that others turned away soldiers with machetes and refused to leave. Driving rain, poor communications and impassable roads made it impossible to determine how they fared.

The eye passed directly over the state capital of Chetumal, where residents were ordered to stay inside their homes after a harrowing night with windows shattering and heavy water tanks flying off rooftops. Sirens wailed constantly as the storm battered the city for hours, hurling billboards down streets. All electricity was down.

The hurricane killed at least 12 people across the Caribbean, And picked up strength after brushing Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.