After Hurricane Otis, Mexican authorities assess the damage | ET REALITY


More than two dozen people died and three were missing after the most powerful hurricane to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast turned a popular tourist destination into a scene of mass devastation, surprising meteorologists and government officials with its intensity.

The scope of the tragedy began to become clear Thursday morning as thousands of military officers, medical teams and government officials battled the devastated state of Guerrero, much of which was effectively cut off from the world after Hurricane Otis made landfall. in the early hours of Wednesday.

“We are very sorry for the loss of 27 human beings,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday during his daily news conference in Mexico City after making a brief visit to the disaster area. “That is what hurts the most, because the material can be taken care of, and we are going to do it with great responsibility.”

It was still difficult to determine the extent of the hurricane’s toll because access to the region was difficult and communications remained largely cut off. The hurricane struck without warning after growing with astonishing speed from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 165 miles per hour when it made landfall.

Authorities were particularly concerned about Acapulco, a port city of more than 852,000 on the Pacific coast that was in Otis’ direct path. Acapulco, the largest city in the state of Guerrero, was hosting an international mining industry convention when the storm hit. Furthermore, many hotels were full of tourists.

Photos and videos showed devastated hotel rooms, doors torn off their hinges and furniture scattered across the city streets.

Frightened tourists hid in their resorts Wednesday night as the hurricane toppled roofs and broke windows. The winds uprooted trees and all the city’s utility poles, López Obrador said, adding that Acapulco remained without electricity, communication or water. Beaches that once attracted visitors from around the world were now covered in piles of debris. Many streets turned into rivers of mud.

More than 200 patients had to be removed from damaged hospitals, said Rosa Icela Rodríguez, national secretary of security and citizen protection. Residents could be seen carrying essential items – bags of food, toilet paper and mattresses – through muddy streets.

According to officials, more than 7,600 Mexican Army and Air Force officers were deployed to Guerrero, as well as more than 700 members of the National Guard. Search and rescue teams were also sent to inspect Acapulco and the surrounding mountainous region, which is susceptible to landslides.

López Obrador said the federal government would also begin delivering food to the area by air.

But efforts to rebuild Guerrero’s damaged communities could face challenges that became more difficult after López Obrador reformed Mexico’s Natural Disaster Fund, a pool of federal money for emergency relief. The president made the move two years ago as he pushed for budget cuts across the federal government.

By law, the fund received 0.4 percent of Mexico’s federal budget each year, and if the money was not spent, it carried over to the following year. Now the country no longer has a regulated percentage of the federal budget allocated to disaster relief. Instead, the budget is reviewed each year and fluctuates based on other priorities.

Studies found that the fund had helped quickly restore health services and eased obstacles in delivering disaster relief.

López Obrador was emboldened as he defended his decision Thursday, calling the fund a “petty cash” that was at the disposal of “corrupt politicians.”

The Mexican president said he had visited Acapulco on Wednesday night and that on the way he encountered a landslide and an overflowing river. The photographs showed him walking in the mud while he visited a community near Acapulco.

“There were many sinkholes, the road was broken in several places,” López Obrador said. “We were stuck there, we had to walk on foot, the people supported us a lot.” He said the damage was worse in Acapulco.

Zoé Robledo, general director of the Mexican Social Security Institute, said Wednesday that it had deployed an emergency team of nurses who had recently worked in Haiti.

“We are also preparing staff teams for conservation issues: medication supply, staff strengthening, focus on patients,” Robledo said.

Otis rapidly intensified Tuesday and into early Wednesday, going from a tropical storm with winds of 65 miles per hour to a Category 5 storm with winds 100 miles per hour faster in less than 24 hours. After hitting the coast, the storm dissipated as it moved inland over southern Mexico.

Meteorologists and Mexican authorities were shocked by the magnitude of the storm. Their models largely failed to predict that it would intensify so abruptly, creating what Eric Blake, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center, called a “nightmare scenario” in a forecast he wrote Tuesday night.

“This is unprecedented in the country in recent times,” López Obrador said Thursday.

The state of Guerrero has also been plagued by violence in recent years. Just this week, an armed group ambushed and killed more than a dozen law enforcement officers, including a local security secretary and a police chief in Coyuca de Benítez.

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