04 November 2005

Report: Hurricane Wilma's effect on the scuba diving industry

A fuller picture is emerging of damage caused by Hurricane Wilma in relation to the sport diving industry. While some regions have suffered bad flooding and damage, effects have been less serious than was feared as Wilma built up in the South Atlantic.

Notable diving holiday areas affected have been Cozumel island on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and America's Florida Keys. While shore damage is apparent in these regions, examining underwater environments is only now becoming possible as sediment levels fall.

Having hit Haiti and Cuba, Wilma landed on Mexico. It's eye stalled over Cozumel for about ten hours, giving a total of some 40 hours of severe weather. Divers and other tourists were stranded in flooded resorts before being evacuated either by air or ferry.

Dive operators face repairs to damaged centres, but most boats were placed successfully out of harm's way. For instance Aqua Safari's Bill Horn, who has operated in Cozumel for 25 years, said his waterfront shop was flooded but still standing. His boats, anchored in sheltered water, had survived.

British dive holiday operator Dive Worldwide has said it had no customers in the area, and that the two liveaboard dive boats it represents were in dry dock and believed to have escaped damage.

Moving on up to Florida, popular with diving Britons, Wilma affected particularly the south-western end of the Florida Keys and cities to the north. By good fortune, central Key Largo escaped relatively unscathed.

"The Upper Keys were very fortunate this time," said Gary of Conch Republic Divers. Commenting on 26 October, he added: "We haven't been out to dive yet as the visibility is still too bad, but we had no damage to the shop or our boats. I suspect Marathon and Key West did not fare as well since they got a lot of flooding."

"Things aren't bad at all, very little damage," said Ric of Silent World, also on 26 October. "The worst areas are Fort Lauderdale and Miami. We haven't been out to the reef yet, but...I don't suspect much in the way of damage."

Source: www.divernet.com


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