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With Hurricane Mitch weakening considerably from its early fury by late Friday afternoon, owners of the commercial property that remains in the storm's path were breathing a sigh of relief and preparing for heavy rains.
The storm had wreaked havoc in some areas of Honduras, where it flooded neighborhoods, damaged bridges and tore the roofs from homes.
At least 50 deaths -- primarily in Honduras, but also in Nicaragua and Mexico -- had been attributed to the storm as of Friday, as Mitch moved slowly across Honduras, prompting fears of continued flooding in coastal regions.
Insurers and brokers who were questioned reported few commercial clients in Honduras and no indications of insured losses, however.
"It doesn't look like we have much exposure there," a CNA Insurance Cos. spokesman said.
While the company has "a little commercial" coverage
through a fronting arrangement in Honduras, it hadn't received any claims and didn't anticipate any, the spokesman said.
Though early last week Mitch's winds topped out at more than 180 mph -- making it one of the strongest Caribbean storms on record -- by Friday it had slipped to tropical storm status, with wind speeds dropping as low as 40 mph.
Still, weather experts warned that Mitch could remain a threat in the northwest Caribbean region for several days yet, and risk managers of businesses with property in that region were keeping a wary eye on weather reports.
With Mitch's threat at its greatest early last week, more than two-thirds of the 30,000 tourists at Mexico's resorts of Cancun and Cozumel left rather than risk the storm, according to government tourism officials.
"Obviously, the hurricane is some concern, although within the last few hours it appears that the wind speed has died down considerably," Hector Mastrapa, manager-insurance for Marriott International Inc. in Washington, D.C., said Thursday afternoon. "If it does go through the Yucatan Peninsula, we do have a couple of very large resort properties there."
Marriott has no properties in Honduras but does operate both a Marriott resort and a Ritz-Carlton resort in Cancun, Mr. Mastrapa said. He added, "At this point, we don't anticipate there will be any big problem for us."
"We may have lost some guests because of a fear of the storm," Mr. Mastrapa said. "But if you're looking at insurable business interruption, most policies require that you have some physical damage before you have an insurable business interruption loss."
By Thursday, the hotel chain was focusing its preparations on dealing with the possibility of heavy rains.
"If it would have remained at the 180 mph mark, we would have taken a stronger look at it," Mr. Mastrapa said. "But with the reduced wind speed, it looks like there will just be a lot of rain, and we are preparing for it accordingly."
Chicago-based Hyatt Corp. has no Honduran properties, and David Mikulina, assistant vp-risk management at Hyatt, said Thursday, "We've had no loss at this point."
"We have locations up in Cancun, but nothing's happened there yet," Mr. Mikulina said. "We'll see what happens next week if the hurricane hits.'