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Want to go to Acapulco? Wait until the dust settles

When will Acapulco be safe for visitors? Those contemplating a vacation to the Mexican seaside resort, devastated last week by Hurricane Pauline, should probably wait at least a month or two before planning a visit there.

"Given the health situation, I would not recommend taking a trip there in this period," said a spokesman for Mexico Travel Advisors, a Los Angeles company that specializes in Acapulco. "Maybe next year sometime."Dust clouds, contaminated water and traffic jams are the biggest woes visitors are facing in the storm's aftermath.

Most residents there have been without running water since the storm hit. Water is available in hotels, according to Mexican tourism officials, but it is being rationed. Armed soldiers are doling out potable water to schools and shelters.

Three cases of cholera, which comes from tainted water, have been reported, and Health Minister Juan Ramon de la Fuente has put the city under sanitary alert.

A tropical sun is searing the area and baking the banks of mud left by Pauline, according to reports by news agencies, creating dust storms everywhere. Many locals have donned face masks to guard against inhalation. The presence of clean-up crews has created traffic pileups in the region, too, and the flow of cars into the center of Acapulco is under tight controls. The beaches, covered with debris, are expected to be closed until early November.

In spite of the problems, tourism officials are working hard to keep the doors of the city open to visitors who have plans to visit. Clean-up crews have removed most traces of flooding and damage at the resort hotels. "Visitors to the area should be safe," said a spokesman for the New York office of the Mexican Tourism Bureau.

The beachfront Acapulco Convention Center has been spruced up, too, for the upcoming World Mining Congress. The international professional meeting is scheduled to bring 7,000 visitors from the United States and other countries to Acapulco this week. Tourism authorities say the congress will go on.