In the wake of Hurricane Gilbert

Since Hurricane Gilbert began its sweep through the Caribbean last Saturday, it's hit eight countries thus far. MEXICO

The effects of Hurricane Gilbert weren't as severe here as feared. Since slamming into the Yucat'an Penisula with 150-mile-per-hour winds Wednesday morning, the hurricane has uprooted trees, destroyed coastal shacks, cut communication lines, and whipped up 23-foot waves. But at press time, no deaths had been reported.

Some 50,000 people were evacuated in the state of Quintana Roo, mostly from the fashionable resort areas of Canc'un and Cozumel. But it was the poorly constructed shacks of poor Mexicans that took the brunt of the damage.

Authorities were particularly concerned about the people trapped on another resort island just off Canc'un, tiny Isla Mujeres. A Navy spokesman in Mexico City said he had no word on the plight of an estimated 15,000 people who had been stranded there.

Government officials reported several million dollars of damage to agricultural land. They also said that 146 off-shore oil platforms have been shut down and their 5,000 workers evacuated, halting the daily production of 1.7 million barrels of oil.

Three ferry boats and several fishing boats have still not been located. In three southeastern Mexican states, there's still no electricity, water, or telephone service - and travel by air, land, or sea remains suspended. JAMAICA

The hurricane damaged 80 percent of Jamaica's homes, devastated crops, and left eastern sections of the island looking ``like Hiroshima after the atom bomb,'' Prime Minister Edward Seaga said.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday after a five-hour inspection flight over the island, he estimated damage at $8 billion and said one out of every five homes was destroyed. ``We saw whole villages where not a single building was left standing,'' Mr. Seaga said.

State-run Jamaican Broadcasting Corp., operating by generator, said at least 19 people were killed when the storm whipped across the island Monday.

The Jamaican Embassy in Washington said 500,000 of Jamaica's 2.3 million people were rendered homeless. And the government estimated that about 150,000 people were in distress shelters set up around the island in sports stadiums, churches, government buildings, and movie theaters.

The storm, which dumped up to 10 inches of rain on the island, wiped out the country's banana crop and poultry industry and heavily damaged the coconut industry and garden crops, the prime minister said.

He added that damage was widespread along the southern coast west of the capital, although not as devastating as on the eastern end. The northern coast, where Jamaica's vital tourist industry is based, escaped the worst of the storm, and only two of the region's luxury hotels appeared to have suffered damage.

In Kingston, Jamaica's capital city of 750,000, trees, zinc roofs, telephone poles, and billboards littered the streets. Military and civilian volunteers worked in virtually every street, pulling down collapsed roofs, sweeping up debris, and bringing food to the homeless.

Seaga said he had no doubt ``that this is going to be the worst disaster that we have experienced in our modern history.''

He said he would hold an emergency Cabinet meeting Thursday to reevaluate government reconstruction priorities and projected costs, as well as Jamaica's requirements in international aid. ``Now, our first priority is to provide shelter and sustenance,'' the prime minister said. ``It's obvious we'll have to spend much more money than we thought initially we'd have to.''

The United States has sent in Navy cargo planes with plastic roof covering and collapsible water storage tanks. Offers of aid have come from Canada, Britain, France, West Germany, and Israel, Seaga said.

Government officials said Kingston's Norman Manley Airport, severely damaged, would reopen to Air Jamaica flights Thursday or today. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Flooding, widespread crop damage. Main electricity relay station down, blacking out much of Santo Domingo, the capital. Five dead, 100 families homeless. CAYMAN ISLANDS Widespread flooding. Hundreds of trees felled. Estimated 5 to 10 percent of houses damaged. Electricity and telephone service disrupted. Returning to normal Wednesday. US VIRGIN ISLANDS Many miles of utility poles toppled, temporarily knocking out power to much of the islands. Some flooding. Back to normal by Tuesday. BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS Flooding and power outages. Some livestock and crop loss. Back to normal by Monday. PUERTO RICO Toppled utility poles and power outages in a dozen small towns. Crop damage due to flooding estimated at $200,000 in western agricultural region. ST. LUCIA Estimated $740,000 loss from damaged banana crop. Similar losses reported by Guadeloupe, St. Vincent and Dominica. Officials say banana plant, which is brittle and snaps off in high winds, recovers quickly, so export losses should be temporary.

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