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Mexico Begins to Assess Damage From Hurricane Dean

Mexican officials say no casualties have been reported since Hurricane Dean hit the nation's Caribbean coast and moved inland. In Miami, VOA's Brian Wagner reports the storm may still be a threat as it continues to move west toward central Mexico.

Officials in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula began assessing the damage from Hurricane Dean after the category 5 storm hit the coastline early Tuesday bringing, winds of 265 kilometers per hour.

The eye of the hurricane first reached land near the Mexican town of Chetumal, where it uprooted trees, snapped power lines and flooded streets. Mexican troops had evacuated some residents in the area ahead of the storm, but others remained in their homes.

During a trip to Canada, where he met with U.S. President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, said he was cutting short the meeting so he could return to Mexico to focus on the disaster. Calderon said he had received no reports of casualties from the hurricane so far.

At a news conference, President Bush told the Mexican leader that Washington was prepared to offer emergency assistance if needed.

"I want you to know that U.S. agencies are in close touch with the proper Mexican authorities, and if you so desire help, we stand ready to help," said President Bush.

Forecasters said the eye of Hurricane Dean followed a path across sparsely populated areas on Mexican coast, and away from population centers such as the resort city of Cancun.

Hugo Camarillo, an employee at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Cancun, said Dean brought strong winds and rain to the area, but caused no real damage.

"As I have heard, there are no damages at any hotel. It is still a little bit cloudy, but the sun is coming out," he said. "The ocean is still dangerous for swimming, but everything is going back to normal."

Camarillo said only 30 guests remained at the hotel while the hurricane passed through, but he said tour groups were expected to begin returning to the beach-side hotel late Tuesday.

The last major hurricane to hit the area was Wilma in 2005, which caused nearly $3 billion in damages on Cancun's coast.

Weather forecasters said hurricane Dean had steadily weakened as it moved over land, and was downgraded to a category one storm with winds of 140 kilometers per hour. But they warned the storm could regain strength as it moved into the Bay of Campeche, on its way to a second landfall in central Mexico, sometime Wednesday afternoon.

Hurricane Dean is blamed for at least 11 deaths in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti and the island of Dominica.

In Florida, the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour landed safely, after officials ordered the crew to end its mission one day early because of weather concerns at mission control in Houston, Texas.