Hurricane Otis pounded the coastal resort town of Acapulco as it swept across Mexico’s Pacific coastline on Wednesday. Otis intensified into a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds reaching 265 km/h (165 mph) when it made landfall, before weakening.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador personally joined an official convoy heading for the seaside city by road.
“The army is bringing machinery and we’re going to try to reopen [the highway] as soon as possible,” he told journalists who were also trying to reach Acapulco.
Early reports of destruction
Otis took out communications in the southern state of Guerrero, making it hard to assess initial damage, authorities said.
However, footage posted on social media showed buildings ripped open, with destroyed cars submerged in floodwaters.
Tourists were seen using mattresses as protective shields in their hotel rooms.
“The urgent thing is to attend to the affected population. We still don’t have the damage assessment because there’s no communication,” Civil Protection national coordinator Laura Velazquez said.
There were no immediate reports of fatalities.
Hurricanes hit Mexico every year on both its Pacific and Atlantic coasts, but few of them make landfall as a Category 5 storm.
Researchers tracking Otis told the Associated Press that the storm also broke records for how quickly it intensified.
“It’s one thing to have a Category 5 hurricane make landfall somewhere when you’re expecting it or expecting a strong hurricane, but to have it happen when you’re not expecting anything to happen is truly a nightmare,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.
This sentiment was shared by the Mexican president who said: “Rarely, according to records, does a hurricane develop so quickly and with such force.”
Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer with climate change.