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Mexico: 27 killed, 4 missing as Hurricane Otis wreaks havoc on Pacific Coast

All the power lines were struck in the hurricane's impact zone and the wind devastated corn crops belonging to small farmers. At least 10,000 military troops were deployed to the area, but they lacked the tools to effectively restore power for aggrieved residents.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Acapulco, Mexico Published on: October 27, 2023 13:01 IST
Hurricane Otis ripped through Mexico's Acapulco, severely
Image Source : AP Hurricane Otis ripped through Mexico's Acapulco, severely damaging infrastructure

The Category-five Hurricane Otis made landfall on Mexico's Pacific Coast on Thursday, killing at least 27 people while four others were reported missing, according to Mexican authorities. Tens and thousands of residents are awaiting help in damaged houses without electricity.

Federal Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said there were 27 confirmed deaths and four disappearances as the hurricane wreaked havoc on Acapulco city. Not a single power line was operating in the impact zone of the hurricane, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

According to Obrador, small farmers had their corn crops devastated by Otis' wind and pounding rain and the administration's first priority was to restore power to the area. He remarked that material losses could be replaced, but the death of civilians is "what hurts the most". 

The early images and accounts of the powerful hurricane described extensive devastation, toppled trees and power lines lying in brown floodwaters extending for miles. The destruction delayed a comprehensive response by the government and further raised widespread frustration of the public with authorities.

While roughly 10,000 military troops were deployed to the area, they lacked the tools to clean tons of mud and fallen trees from the streets. Hundreds of trucks deployed in Acapulco seemed clueless as to how to restore power.

Chaos in Acapulco after hurricane

Inside one store, National Guard officers allowed looters to take perishable items like food, but made futile efforts to prevent people from taking appliances, even as people outside loaded refrigerators on top of taxis. Hundreds of residents also wrestled everything, from food items to toilet paper and TVs, from a muddy store as they struggled to push metal shopping carts.

It took nearly all day Wednesday for authorities to partially reopen the main highway connecting Acapulco to the state capital Chilpancingo and Mexico City. The vital ground link allowed dozens of emergency vehicles, personnel and trucks carrying supplies to reach the battered port.

The city was also plunged into darkness on Wednesday without any phone service, although some people were able to use satellite phones loaned by the Red Cross. Acapulco's  Diamond Zone, an oceanfront area replete with hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions was covered in an enormous lake of brown water.

Resentment grew on Thursday in impoverished neighbourhoods as residents worried that government attention would go to repairing infrastructure for the city’s economic engine of tourism rather than helping the neediest.

According to a resident named Flora Contreras Santos, a 3-year-old girl was swept away from her mother in a mudslide that is yet to be located. "We need help, the mother is in bad shape and we can’t find the girl," said Santos.

Residents organised themselves with the help of friends and relatives living in other parts of Mexico and the United States. They shared photos of neighbourhoods on messaging channels like WhatsApp. 

Acapulco lies at the foot of steep mountains. Once it was a preferred destination for Hollywood stars for its nightlife, sport fishing and cliff diving shows, but now its popularity has fallen due to organised crime and violence in recent years, driving away many international tourists.

(with AP inputs)

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