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February 25, 2021
International News

Picking up the pieces: Mexico’s millionaire getaways pummelled by Patricia

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Image:Debris are seen outside luxury vacation homes at Costa Careyes, after the passing of Hurricane Patricia in the Mexican state of Jalisco October 25, 2015. REUTERS/Henry Romero


By David Alire Garcia

COSTA CAREYES, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico may have dodged a bullet from the fury of Hurricane Patricia, but jet setters like Bill Gates, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cindy Crawford will have to find a new playground for now after the storm ravaged some of the world’s most exclusive holiday homes.

Patricia, packing 165 MPH (266 kph) winds, carved a swathe through relatively remote parts of rural Mexico last week, hammering exclusive retreats favoured by A-list stars.

While Patricia missed the sunkissed Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta and key port of Manzanillo, some of its fiercest winds first struck the eight miles (13 km) of private beach at the luxury vacation resort of Costa Careyes, where pop singer Seal married his now ex-wife, model Heidi Klum, a decade ago.

Founded by Italian banker-turned-real estate developer Gian Franco Brignone in 1968, prospective landowners in Careyes must comply with a list of eccentric rules that include “living in the present,” one visitor said.

Despite the hefty price tag of the properties, which can rent for up to $12,000 a night, wearing branded clothing and flashiness with money are frowned upon.

Just a week ago, the resort’s multi-million dollar villas were enveloped in thick foliage that shrouded them from prying eyes along the coastal highway.

Not anymore.
“It looks like an atomic bomb exploded here,” said Gustavo Gomez, head of security at the resort, pointing to hillsides bristling with denuded tree trunks, their foliage sucked off by Patricia’s devastating winds.

The 20 or so guests staying at Careyes were evacuated before the storm hit, while the wider impact on Mexico was muted by a combination of factors including its speed and the fact it was broken up when it ran into mountains. No one was killed.

“People would pass by on the highway up there and they had no way of knowing what was here because everything used to be completely green,” Gomez said of the transformed landscape, which he estimates will take at least a year to recover.

The several dozen homes at Costa Careyes have recently played host to pop stars, Mexican magnates and European royalty, and several of the largest properties feature their own helipads just beyond the resort’s polo club.

The resort’s website boasts: “It rarely rains more than 25 days per year in Careyes, and even then the rain tends to be in the early evening or at night when offshore storms illuminate the night skies.”
But when the hurricane struck on Friday evening, neatly arranged terra-cotta tiles lining the roofs were completely blown off and furniture was sucked out of some properties, though the walls of most of the structures remained intact.

Shattered pieces of the orange tiles dot the resort’s narrow stairways. Elegant infinity pools are now littered with chunks of collapsed balconies, furniture and coconuts.

And as maintenance workers with chain saws attempted to clear a collapsed tree blocking a cobblestone road, electricity board workers continue to try to remove debris in an effort to restore power.
Still, poor villages like Perula, where many of the workers who are employed by Careyes and a similar luxury resort Cuixmala live, suffered the brunt of the hurricane.

“When I got back to my house, it wasn’t there,” said Everardo Cardenas, 71, as he began to cry.
The Perula fisherman said he will try to rebuild his home with random pieces of wood and other materials blown in by Patricia.

“I’m going to try to rebuild the roof with some plastic scraps and all the pieces of orange tiles I’m finding,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Perula and Christine Murray in Mexico City; Editing by Simon Gardner and Diane Craft)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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