ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Survivors of the Category 5 hurricane that killed at least 27 people and devastated the Mexican resort city of Acapulco are growing frustrated with the government’s slow response, they worry. That the focus will be on repairing the infrastructure for the city’s economic engine. Tourism instead of helping the needy.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Despite the hopes of many in Acapulco for help to arrive, the coastal city of 1 million, once known for its seaside charm, was still in a state of complete chaos as of late Thursday.
Entire walls of tall buildings along the seashore were demolished. Hundreds of thousands of houses were left without electricity. People who lack even the most basic resources are emptying shops of everything from food to toilet paper.
Miguel Angel Fong, president of the Mexican Hotel Association, told the AP that 80% of the city’s hotels were damaged.
Dozens of desperate tourists, tired of waiting for buses out of town, walked on narrow footpaths through the long car tunnel under the mountain that divides the port from the rest of the city. They pulled suitcases and some picked up children.
The Pacific hurricane strengthened to shocking intensity before hitting the coast early Wednesday and the Mexican government deployed about 10,000 troops to deal with the aftermath. But there were delays in arrival of equipment to remove tons of mud and fallen trees from the roads.
Flora Contreras Santos, a housewife from a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, asked for help in searching for a 3-year-old girl who had been swept away from her mother in a landslide. She went from soldier to soldier trying to interest one of the victims in the tragedy that occurred on her road at the height of the storm.
“The mountain fell upon them. Mud snatched him from his mother’s arms, Contreras said. “We need help, mom is in bad shape and we can’t find the girl.”
Even as army bulldozers began clearing knee-deep mud from Acapulco’s main thoroughfares, Contreras’s pleas did not move any soldiers to action.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador went by road on Wednesday after the storm struck the iconic city on Mexico’s Pacific coast. At least four people are missing. It was not clear whether the 3-year-old girl was among them.
The president said Otis had downed every power-line pole in the area where it struck on Wednesday, leaving much of the city without power. Otis transformed from mild-mannered to monster in record time, and scientists are struggling to figure out how – and why they didn’t see it coming.
Acapulco’s municipal water system failed and nearly half a million homes lost power. López Obrador said restoring power was a top priority, but as of Thursday evening 250,000 homes and businesses were still without power.
Brown floodwaters spread for miles in some areas. Many residents were taking basic items from shops to survive. Others left with more expensive items, causing widespread vandalism in area shops.
As cell phone signals began to return in parts of the city, residents organized themselves with the help of friends and relatives living in Mexico and other parts of the United States. They joined together in the neighborhood using online messaging platforms like WhatsApp. There were about 1,000 people in 40 chats on Thursday, with the number continuing to grow throughout the day.
They shared photos of flooded areas and tips for finding cell phone signals, and asked for information about loved ones they hadn’t heard from. Others shared photos of papers filled with names of survivors seeking refuge in shelters, some with notes reading, “Lupita, we’re okay. I will call you when we get the signal.”
Juan Pablo Lopez, 26, was talking to his wife when his call was cut off due to Otis’ landfall early Wednesday. She returned to Acapulco a month ago to be with her family and give birth to her son. Lopez was at home in Cancún.
“I am very worried about my newborn son,” he said.
With no information Wednesday, he created an online chat with friends and family in Guerrero state, where Acapulco is the largest city. He also invited friends who had moved to America and asked them to add their local contacts.
“We started cross-referencing information, sharing what we found, almost like a WhatsApp newspaper,” Lopez said.
However, as of Thursday afternoon, he still had not heard anything about his wife and son.
Unrest was common in the storm-ravaged city, as residents emptied the area’s stores of goods.
Ricardo Diaz, a self-employed laborer, stood Thursday with two handfuls of live chickens, clutching their legs. A chicken company gave them the chickens, Diaz said. A woman nearby pushed an office chair laden with artificial Christmas wreaths and toilet paper into the streets. Diaz watched in dismay as people carried armfuls of merchandise out of a damaged store.
“They’re going to close these stores and it’s going to hurt Acapulco,” Diaz said.
Acapulco police chief Luis Enrique Vazquez Rodríguez said Thursday there was little they could do to stop people from emptying local stores or scurrying through traffic caused by mud and fallen trees, which is crippling the city. Most of the areas have been affected.
“We don’t have the capacity to stop the looting because there are so many people there,” he said. “This is a completely extraordinary situation.”
Some residents said that Acapulco could take a year to recover; With no electricity, gasoline, low cell coverage, and hotels destroyed by the storm, the task seemed impossible.
Marketing expert Antonio Esparza was one of the few optimists, even though he was stuck in gridlock traffic in the aftermath.
“This will improve Acapulco, because it will force the government to pay attention,” he said.
Larger stores that had taken stock were not restocking their shelves, which means items may be harder to find. But street vendors were doing good business in some areas as residents sought fresh food.
Hundreds of trucks from the state power company arrived in Acapulco on Wednesday, but power lines were submerged in several feet of mud and water.
It took almost all day Wednesday for authorities to partially reopen the main highway linking Acapulco to the state capital Chilpancingo and Mexico City. Critical ground connectivity allowed dozens of emergency vehicles, trucks carrying personnel and supplies to reach the damaged port.
Acapulco’s commercial and military airports were still too badly damaged to resume flights, although López Obrador said the plan was to establish an air bridge to transfer resources.
Acapulco is at the foot of steep hills. Luxury homes and slums alike cover the hills with dazzling Pacific Ocean views. The port, which once attracted Hollywood stars for its nightlife, sport fishing and cliff diving shows, has in recent years fallen victim to competing organized crime groups, who have plunged the city into violence, driving away many international tourists. Have gone.
AP writer Maria Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s climate coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment
Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press