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Outlook for Caribbean looking much brighter In recovery: Many islands expect their resorts to come back from hurricane damage in time for the winter season.


Recovery is always a wonder.

As of last week, there had been 13 named tropical storms in a hurricane season that doesn't end until Nov. 30. Four struck the Caribbean in as many weeks, and the last two were killers.

Just after Labor Day, Anguilla -- along with St. Maarten, Antigua and other Leeward Islands -- was hit hard by Luis. Nine days later, Marilyn moved in on the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Affected most throughout the region were people living in shantytowns. Also affected: their livelihoods. It will be weeks before tourists, and the jobs they represent, will be able to return to some of the islands. On some islands -- including Dominica and Puerto Rico -- heavy rains wiped out vital banana and coffee crops.

The outlook, however, is mostly sunny, though conditions, communications and projections remain in flux. Here's what tourists may expect during the next few weeks.

St. Thomas/St. John/St. Croix: St. Thomas took Marilyn's brunt, though details at presstime remained sketchy. Early word: 80 percent of the island's homes were damaged or destroyed. "They expect to have hotels up to receive tourists by mid-December," said Jon Newman, public relations rep for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cruise ships may be calling at St. Thomas earlier -- though there will be some juggling for a time -- while several lines that had St. Croix on their itineraries said they had planned no changes. Both St. Croix, which would become the USVI duty-free port of choice until St. Thomas rebuilds, and St. John reported about 20 percent of homes damaged.

St. Maarten/St. Martin: The airports are open, though the few functioning hotels are being used largely as shelters for the homeless, the military and emergency workers. The Belle Creole (on the French side) and the Great Bay and Dawn Beach hotels (Dutch) will be closed until well into next year; most of the rest should be operational by mid-December. Cruise ships could begin calling on the French side by the end of October, said Michel Couturier, who represents St. Martin.

St. Barts: Three hotels -- Les Castelets, Baie des Anges and Baie des Flamands -- suffered heavy damage and will remain closed indefinitely. The main beaches were washed away, and most of the island's vegetation is gone. Power and phones are sporadic. As for cruise ships, that will have to wait until the locals are taken care of. Spokeswoman Elise Magras said most of the island's shops and restaurants suffered only minor damage, and that most hotels and rental villas will be in operation by early November.

Antigua: "We have 18 hotels open right this minute," spokesman David Fernandez said last week, "so we aren't doing too, too badly. The power's coming on in various areas. It's not as bad as we anticipated." Two among the island's more than 50 hotels and rental clubs, the Galley Bay and Runaway Beach hotels, won't reopen until mid-1996 or later. All restaurants and shops -- and the golf course -- are open, though some with limited hours.

Puerto Rico: Aside from lightly populated Isla Culebra and Isla Vieques off the main island's eastern shore, Puerto Rico caught only a glancing blow. "All the hotels are open," said a spokesman.

St. Kitts/Nevis: "Electricity, water and everything are back to normal," said a spokeswoman. Most of the hotels weren't scheduled to open until October or later anyway, she said. "Those that were open remained open," she said. Nevis, she said, suffered some damage from wind, rain and mudslides, but nothing serious.

Anguilla: Sandy Ground, the port city, "took quite a beating," said Ms. Medhurst, but most of the news was upbeat. The Frangipani Hotel won't open until December, and some others may stay closed into November, she said. The rest? "All will be reopening, just some of them a week or two late," she said. "But we're cleaning up much faster than anyone could've dreamed was possible."

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