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an article about people at Scuba Club Cozumel


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Posted by on October 25, 2005 at 15:20:27:

In Reply to: Re: The place is trashed (& clickable links) posted by Roger on October 25, 2005 at 00:36:57:

Mid-Valley scuba divers rode out Hurricane Wilma in Mexico

As Hurricane Wilma slammed Mexico with two days of torrential rains and howling winds, the owners of Salem-based Scuba Outfitters and 21 of their clients suffered through the storm huddled in rooms with limited food and water at a Cozumel resort.

Windows in some rooms were shattered by the hurricane. The resort's lobby flooded.

The tourists were moved into rooms away from the ocean to keep them safer.

They were fed breakfast and lunch at Scuba Club Cozumel on Wednesday, and each was given two sack lunches to eat later, but they soon began to feel desperate as they started running out of food. They had water but no generators to provide electricity.

The hurricane pummeled Cozumel on Friday morning and until about dawn Sunday as a Category 4 storm that eventually dropped to a Category 2, wreaking havoc up and down the Yucatan Peninsula's eastern coast and killing seven people.

But the Oregon tourists survived -- dirty and hungry but healthy.

"They just sound so tired," said Sheila Oleman, a scuba instructor who works at Scuba Outfitters, which schedules a major diving trip each year. "They sound like they're ready to come home."

The group -- which has 16 Salem residents, three from Stayton, one from Turner, one from Albany and two from California -- left for Cozumel on Oct. 15. They include married couples, a father-and-son team and two teenagers.

They had three great days of diving Oct. 16-18 before their trip started to turn scary.

The group opted to stay together in the resort rather than risk being separated and sent to different shelters. Four tried to fly out before the hurricane hit, but their flight was canceled.

Since the hurricane hit, family and friends of the divers have received sporadic calls from them.

"He said it's just a horrendous experience," said Page Merrill, whose son and daughter-in-law, John and Kaare Merrill, have owned Scuba Outfitters on Commercial Street SE for three years.

On Oct. 18, John Merrill called the store and said that most of the tourists planned to stay.

Oleman talked to Merrill again Saturday, when winds still were 100 mph and the surf was high, but the group felt better after receiving a helicopter drop of food, water and generators.

On Sunday, they got to take their first showers in four days, said Liz Dirkx, the wife and mother of two of the divers.

Their hotel was damaged but withstood the hurricane, Oleman said.

Merrill called Oleman again Monday, telling her that the flooding had subsided but that there were trees and roofs everywhere and the smell of sewage.

"He said it was the worst devastation he had ever seen. The docks were all destroyed. All the airports were flooded," Oleman said. "You can hear it in their voices when they call, how bad it just really looks."

The local group's original return date of last Saturday has been changed to Wednesday, but members are not sure they'll get out then.

Liz Dirkx finally got a message from her family Saturday and got to talk to her husband on a borrowed cell phone Monday.

"I'm just relieved. I'm relieved that they're all well. They said, 'You would not believe what it was like to go through it,'" Dirkx said. "I'll be very happy to see them. They're going to get lots of hugs and kisses."

The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.



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