Mexico explosion raises issues travellers should be aware of...St. Kitts trouble
It's pretty horrifying to read the story in today's Star about the explosion that ripped through a hotel in the popular Playa del Carmen region of Mexico. Losing a child is especially painful and something no parent should have to go through.
Authorities say five Canadians and two Mexicans died in the powerful explosion yesterday at the Grand Riviera Princess Hotel, south of Cancun. Two other Canadians remain in critical condition.
I don't think it's cause for panic, as it's a seemingly unusual occurence. But we still don't seem to have very solid information about what exactly caused the explosion. It sounds like it COULD be a buildup of methane, perhaps from a nearby swamp.
If I was travelling to this part of Mexico, and it's important to stress this is something that occurred in one tiny portion of the country, I'd want to know what's under my hotel, and how close my hotel is to this particular swamp. What about other swamps?
I don't know. A lot of Florida is built around swampland, but I've never heard of hotels blowing up like this down around the Everglades or anything. I'll take authorities at their word for now, but as a journalist I have to be wary of the party line.
Francisco Alor, attorney general for the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, said reports suggest "an accumulation of gases produced by decomposing organic material in the subsoil, and this gas produced the explosion."
“Expert examiners and civil defence personnel will have to determine if the underground space filled with swampy water that remained in this zone when the building was constructed four years ago, could have generated this type of gases,” he said.
Officials said no gas lines were located in the area where the blast occurred.
It's still early, but the issue certainly is disturbing. What other hotels are in this region, exactly? How close are they to this swamp that seems to be attracting attention? If I was a traveler, I'd want to find out precisely where my hotel is compared to the Grand Riviera Princess.
The Grand Sunset Princess appears to be right next door, according to some web maps I've found. There are several popular Mayakoba resorts just up the beach a bit, but Mike Taylor at Fairmont tells me the Fairmont Mayakoba is 15 or 20 minutes away.
Fairmont released a statement about 2 p.m., which I'm providing here in its entirety:
Fairmont Mayakoba sends its condolences to those affected by the incident at the Grand Princess Riviera Hotel that occurred on November 14, 2010. Local Playa del Carmen authorities have the situation under control and have assured us that this was an isolated incident only affecting that property. Fairmont Mayakoba is operating normally; as reference, our property is located 2 kilometers away from the Grand Princess Riviera Maya Hotel. All local services and attractions are also operating normally. We do not expect any service interruptions for current or upcoming guests. Fairmont Mayakoba is not affiliated to the Grand Princess Riviera Hotel, nor are our sister properties in Mexico, Bermuda and Arizona.
On top of this, it is also important to note Jim that Fairmont Mayakoba's ongoing inspections and safety procedures comply with local regulations, with international standards, and the comprehensive standards dictated by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to ensure the safety and well being of our visitors and colleagues.
It's hard for travelers here to get all the information, but if I was headed to that region I'd want to do all the research I could before putting my family up for the night. Good on Fairmont for getting the information out there.
If you have any concerns let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ST. KITTS ROBBERY
Not great news for the tourism folks in St. Kitts, either. Associated Press reports a group of visitors on a cruise day-trip were robbed of their wallets and cameras.
Apparently someone threw an old tree across the road in the middle of a jungle-like area. When the bus driver got out to remove the tree, two masked gunmen pounced, on 16 passengers from the Celebrity Mercury ship, then fled into the forest or jungle.
Police say the tourists from the Celebrity Mercury ship were traveling to the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a park popular with visitors. No one was harmed, according to the AP report.
It's pretty rare, but we did see a tourist from a cruise ship killed in what was said to be a gang-related shooting in St. Thomas.
Isolated incidents, but disturbing to be sure.
PEARSON PROBLEMS..AND NUTS TO YOU
Flew home from Australia yesterday, then caught an Air Canada flight from Los Angeles to Toronto. Our plane was on the ground at 8:21 p.m. and at the gate at 8:28 or so. When did the first bit of luggage arrive? 9:01 p.m.
That's a whopping 33 minutes on my watch. Even if I'm off by 10 per cent, it's a full half hour for the FIRST suitcase to come tumbling down the belt.
Hugely unacceptable, Pearson. I've heard them blame the airlines, but as a passenger I don't give a damn. All I know is when I arrive at most other airports in the world, luggage arrives within a few minutes of the plane hitting the gate. Sometimes it's even there before I make it to baggage claim, but it's almost always slow as molasses at Pearson.
It's not just me. An acquaintance of mine who holds public office (nope, not saying) says they've complained many times to Pearson about it and they just blame the airline.
What's up, guys?
While I'm on the subject of airlines and airports, I had a nice flight with Qantas on my way from Sydney to Los Angeles. I ordered breakfast, and don't remember what the menu said. But when my muesli arrived, I noticed there were nuts in the bowl.
I have a mild allergy to most nuts, so I was curious what they were. I asked the flight attendant.
"I have no idea," she said. "I think they're macadamia nuts."
I think they were, too. But I wasn't sure, and I didn't want to take a chance. So I picked them out of my bowl.
I suppose I could've said "I have a small nut allergy, can you tell me what these are?" Okay. But still, when you're on a plane two hours from the nearest bit of land and you're a flight attendant in a day when nut allergies of a very severe nature are quite common and someone asks you, "What kind of nuts are these," I think it calls for a response that's slightly better than "I have no idea, I think they're macadamia nuts."
A friend of mine at the Star says it drives her crazy that they still serve nuts of any kind on a plane. Her kids have severe peanut allergies and she has to clothe them in long pants and long sleeves in case someone else has peanuts on the plane.
Banning nuts entirely on a plane is a whole other issue. But I'd think that, given the nature of the problem, we'd have a bit more sensitivity.
It was my only issue with the flight, so I don't want to dump on Qantas. They had a great selection of movies and TV shows on the plane and everything went smoothly. They even gave me an upgrade, which I"m quite grateful for after eight days traipsing around Australia and meeting some wonderful people and seeing some remarkable sights. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't point out what I think is a flaw in their service...