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Biblical plague strikes Mexico

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Locust plague encircles Mexico's Cancun resort
By Gunther Hamm
21 minutes ago

Clouds of locusts have descended around the Mexican beach resort of Cancun, destroying corn crops and worrying officials in a region still recovering from the devastating fury of last year's Hurricane Wilma.

Traveling in dark fogs, locusts are grasshoppers that have entered a swarming phase, capable of covering large distances and rapidly stripping fields of vegetation.

"Imagine, they fly in the form of a flock. Imagine the width of a street," government official Martin Rodriguez said on Tuesday, describing the fields around Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Towns have formed pesticide-armed brigades and are winning the war against the 3-week-old plague that has left tourist areas unharmed, authorities said.

Squads wait until night when the flying insects are roosting on plants to blast them. They carry motorized backpack pumps to shoot chemicals in a crusade that has affected from 2,000 to 2,500 acres of farm land.

"It is a war, effectively," said German Parra, a senior agriculture official in the Gulf state of Quintana Roo, home of tourist resorts Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Hot weather and an absence of mobility-limiting hurricanes have allowed the insects to breed more than normal but authorities hope to end the infestation in the next eight days.

The insects have focused on agricultural areas, sparing beachgoers another disaster after last year's Hurricane Wilma, which ravaged Cancun and other Caribbean coast resorts and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and lost revenue.

Destruction to corn crops has been lessened because the locusts came after most of the harvesting was finished, officials said.

Locusts, which typically come to the region in four-year cycles, are most famous as one of the 10 biblical plagues of Egypt. "We hope that God will take pity on us and help us," said Parra with a laugh.
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