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Sargassum continues to smother Playa del Carmen beaches causing closure

Playa del Carmen, Q.R. — With the continued winds, authorities say they have not been able to install additional sargassum barriers along the coast of Playa del Carmen. The mass arrival of seaweed has forced the city to shut one of its central beaches.

Mayor Lili Campos says that Playa El Recodo has been closed to the public due to the overwhelming arrival of sargassum. A sign has been placed at the beach to alert visitors that it is closed. Campos did not say how long El Recodo will be off limits to beachgoers.

Lourdes Várguez Ocampo, Director of the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone (Zofemat) in Playa del Carmen, reported that sargassum collection personnel has been increased by an additional 30 people.

In addition to the extra hands, heavy machinery including back hoes and dump trucks have been brought in to aid in removal. Reinforcement was deemed necessary after masses of sargassum continued to cover Playa del Carmen beaches.

Ocampo says El Recodo, Punta Esmeralda and the areas of 14th Street and 12th Street are the most affected.

“We are increasing the staff, around 30 more people have already joined, however, we have 60 vacancies. In terms of machinery and trucks, there is a backhoe, dump trucks and beach sweepers from the city council. There are no machines left for rent,” Ocampo said adding that two sargassum collection ships from the navy are expected next week.

“The installation of the barrier began, however, in front of the beach of North 8th Street the wind and wave conditions knocked it down, so the navy suspended the installation,” she said stressing that when the winds cease, the rest of the barriers will be installed.

“Every day, on average, between 100 to 150 tons are collected. Last year, it was 21,000 tons, now this year, it could exceed 23,000,” she said.

For weeks, authorities in charge of managing the sargassum had been claiming a proactive approach this year, especially with the forecasted arrival of masses of seaweed. On numerous occasions, authorities had said at-sea barriers would be placed and sargassum collection vessels ready before it arrived.