Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Acapulco, Mexico was looted and devastated after Hurricane Otis

Acapulco, Mexico, Oct. 27 (Reuters) Acapulco, Mexico, was ravaged by Hurricane Otis this week, killing at least 27 people and leaving thousands of residents without food. And water.

Otis hit Acapulco early Wednesday morning with winds of 165 mph (266 km/h), flooding the city, tearing roofs off homes, shops and hotels, submerging vehicles, and cutting communications and road and air links.

The cost of the devastation left by the Category 5 storm was estimated at billions of dollars, and more than 8,000 members of the armed forces were sent to recover the affected port.

“Now, the money is of no use to us because there is nothing to buy, everything is looted,” Rodolfo Villacomez, a 57-year-old Acapulco resident, said after Otis tore through the city. “It’s a total mess. You can hear him bellowing like a bull in here.”

On Thursday evening, people took away food, water and toilet paper from the shops. “We came to get food because we don’t have any,” one woman told Reuters.

Reuters video showed people carrying boxes from the devastated supermarket and loading cars. Inside, the shelves were bare.

“There were acts of looting in some places because of the state of emergency,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday, urging residents not to take advantage of the situation.

Elsewhere, household waste was strewn among dilapidated deck chairs and nests of faded trees outside dilapidated houses.

Speaking at a regular press conference, Lopez Obrador said the government would help people in the city of nearly 900,000 in the southern state of Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest.

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However, many citizens said that this assistance was not enough.

“All the shops are closed or destroyed,” said Raul Busto Ramirez, 76, an engineer who works at the Acapulco airport. He blamed the shortage on looting and said people were running out of cash because the ATMs were not working.

The government released little information on the dead and injured, saying only four others were missing. Some officials privately expressed concern that casualties would rise.

Letitia Murphy said she began to worry when she lost touch with her ex-husband and her father, 59-year-old Briton Neil Marshall, who was in Acapulco when Otis struck.

Murphy said she found out about his death on social media after residents found her body near where she was staying.

“We can’t even get information about him,” he told Reuters by phone. “It’s terrible that we don’t know what to do.”

The Mexican and British governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Another weather system that could produce more heavy rain is expected to strengthen over Central America in the days ahead, moving back toward southern Mexico.

‘We’re lucky’

Mexican officials said Otis was the most powerful storm to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast. It surprised forecasters, gathering strength at an unexpected speed before making landfall, surpassing initial predictions.

However, López Obrador said: “We were lucky.”

“Even in the fury of the cyclone, nature, the creator, protected us,” he added. “There is a lot of material damage but fortunately we have not recorded many deaths.”

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An air bridge between Acapulco and Mexico City was set up on Friday to evacuate tourists, after authorities restored the city’s stricken airport to operation.

The government has yet to estimate the cost of Otis, but Enki Research, which tracks tropical storms and models their damage costs, sees it likely to be “close to $15 billion.” López Obrador urged insurance companies to speed up payments.

Governments sent messages of solidarity to Mexico, and Pope Francis offered his condolences on Friday.

US President Joe Biden offered his condolences to the victims of the hurricane in a brief statement Friday evening, pledging his “full support” to the Mexican government, as well as pledging to help ensure the safety of US citizens in the region.

State power utility CFE said Friday it had restored 50% of electricity service in Guerrero and Mexican telecommunications company America Mo had restored nearly 60% of cell service.

Jeff, a 65-year-old Canadian in Acapulco, said he was trapped in the city and worried about how to survive the coming days because “all the stores have been looted.”

“The devastation here is unbelievable,” he said. “There’s nothing going on except people trying to scavenge whatever they can to survive the next couple of weeks or months.”

A report by Alexandre Meneghini, Jose Cortes, Quetzallee Nigde-ha in Acapulco; Diego Ore and Kylie Madri in Mexico City, Laura Kotesteiner in Monterrey and Natalia Siniawski in Gdansk; Written by Dave Graham; Editing by Chisu Nomiyama, Bill Bergrod, Sandra Maler and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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