CANCUN, Mexico – Mexican authorities set up emergency shelters and cruise ships shifted course on Tuesday as Hurricane Rina strengthened off the Caribbean coast, following a projected track that has it whirling through Cancun and the resort-filled Mayan Riviera, Mexico’s most popular tourist destination.
Rina’s maximum sustained winds remained steady at about 110 mph, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, making it a Category 2 storm. Forecasters predict it will strengthen as it nears the Mexican coast tonight before rolling over the island of Cozumel, a popular dive spot and cruise-ship port, then along the coast to Cancun.
Authorities decided to evacuate the small, low-lying fishing village of Punta Allen, just south of Tulum, said Quintana Roo state Civil Defense Director Luis Carlos Rodriguez.
The coastal area around Tulum is dotted with Mayan ruins, and further north is Playa del Carmen, another popular spot for international tourists and the departure point for ferries serving Cozumel.
Douglas Baird, 40, of Glasgow, Scotland, said he had been in Playa del Carmen for 11 days on a tour with 10 other people. He plans to stay for the five remaining days of his vacation.
“I’ll go to the bar,” he said about his plans for waiting out his first hurricane. “It won’t be a problem.”
State Tourism Director Juan Carlos Gonzalez Hernandez said there were about 83,000 tourists in the state, with about 45,000 of those in stretch of coast south of Cancun that includes Tulum and Playa de Carmen, and almost 28,000 in Cancun. There were only about 1,719 tourists in Cozumel, and many of them were leaving.