| 21 July 2024, Sunday |

Nearly 100 dead and missing in Mexico from hurricane, supply concerns persist

The number of people dead and missing due to Hurricane Otis, a Category 5 storm which hammered the Mexican Pacific resort city of Acapulco last week, has risen to close to 100, authorities in the state of Guerrero said on Monday.

Otis battered Acapulco with winds of 165 miles per hour (266 km per hour) on Wednesday, flooding the city, tearing roofs from homes, hotels and other businesses, submerging vehicles, and severing communications as well as road and air connections.

Looting broke out as the city’s population of nearly 900,000 became increasingly desperate for food and water.

Evelyn Salgado, governor of Acapulco’s home state of Guerrero, said 45 people were confirmed dead and 47 others were missing, citing figures from state prosecutors. Salgado had said on Sunday morning the death toll stood at 43.

On Sunday afternoon, Mexico’s federal civil protection authorities said there were 48 dead, consisting of 43 in Acapulco and five in nearby Coyuca de Benitez.

Among the dead are an American citizen, a Briton and a Canadian, according to Guerrero’s government.

Salgado provided the figures on the phone with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who during a regular government press conference urged local authorities to ensure that basic goods were being delivered to Acapulco’s population.

The cost of damage from the hurricane could climb as high as $15 billion according to estimates, and Mexico has sent some 17,000 members of the armed forces to keep order and help distribute tonnes of food and supplies in Acapulco.

However, problems persist.

A line of some 150 people waiting for water provided by a local authority snaked down muddy streets in the La Frontera neighborhood on Sunday afternoon, as residents holding empty water containers bemoaned the hours-long wait.

“Look how many of us there are,” said one of them, Emilia Rojas, looking around her in despair. “We’re so many. This water isn’t going to be enough.”

On a nearby street, Perla Rubi said the long wait was uncomfortable, given the desperation among so many people.

“We’ve been here since dawn, since 5 in the morning, risking getting robbed, because now they’re assaulting people in the streets,” she said. “Where’s the government help?”

The disaster struck Acapulco barely seven months before Mexico’s next presidential election, and Lopez Obrador on Monday reiterated his claim that critics were attacking his response to Otis and inflating its impact for electoral reasons.

His fiery political broadsides triggered criticism that Lopez Obrador was downplaying the gravity of the disaster.

  • Reuters