ACAPULCO (AFP) – Acapulco was struggling to recover from the extraordinarily powerful Hurricane Otis, which claimed 39 lives and provoked widespread power, water and telephone outages.
The picturesque Mexican tourist haunt, which once lured Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley, had never experienced a Category 5 hurricane like Otis and made local landmarks built over decades look like they had been bombed.
A lack of phone signal has left survivors desperate to communicate with loved ones. Some 200,000 homes were damaged, with a number of restaurants and businesses in ruins.
“We must restart the reconstruction of Acapulco as soon as possible,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said. As aid finally began to arrive after the storm’s devastating landfall – initial estimates report USD15 billion in damage – the government upped the death toll from the previous report of 27.
Secretary of Security Rosa Icela Rodriguez said in a video on social media that at least 10 people remain missing, up from four previously reported.
A security force of some 17,000 has been deployed across the area after reports that supermarkets had been looted, authorities said.
“Additionally, the Mexican army and navy have established an air bridge to accelerate the distribution of humanitarian aid,” a government statement said.
Thousands of litres of water and food supplies have been distributed in the resort city, home to 790,000 people.
The government said victims in need of specialised care were being flown to hospitals elsewhere in Mexico. Despite the government efforts, many survivors around the area were still struggling to contact family and friends elsewhere in Mexico.
Andrea Fernandez, who is eight months pregnant, said she was distraught – unable to let her husband in another state know that she is fine.
“There is no (cellular) service. I haven’t been able to communicate for three days,” she said, jostling on a bridge with about 20 others keen to reach loved ones.
“I’m desperate,” she said through tears. Cell phones intermittently pick up signals in some parts of the port, but the situation is hit or miss.
One local woman could be overheard saying: “There is no way to get out of here! I’ll talk to you again when I can. Everything here is gone. It’s horrible.”
Some survivors have told local media they were angry to hear tourists were taken to safe places to ride out the storm – in sharp contrast to the local population.