Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cancun, Nature at War Over Beaches

People walk along the beach in Cancun, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007. A year after Mexico spent millions to replace its hurricane-devastated beaches, Cancun is fighting against Mother Nature once again: erosion is shrinking its sandy playground. Waves at high tide now lap against the decks of some new, glitzy hotels. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Associated Press Writer

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) -- Cancun and Mother Nature are at war again.

Mexico spent $19 million to replace beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but erosion has shrunk Cancun's sandy playground to the point where waves at high tide lap against some hotel patios.

To bring tourists pouring back after Hurricane Wilma, the ocean floor was dredged to rebuild eight miles of beach, nearly double their pre-hurricane size, and hotels were refurbished.

Just a year after the grand refurbishment was completed, the beaches have shrunk again, from 100 feet to less than 70 feet at mid-tide in the tourist zone, and swimmers are forced to clamber down 3-foot drops in the sand level to reach the water.

Most sections of beach remain about as wide as before the hurricane hit, although some are less - barely 30 feet wide - and the sea is relentlessly munching away at what's left, said biologist Alfredo Arellano, Yucatan director for the government's Commission for Natural Protected Areas.

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