Near an Acapulco beach: food, water and prayer after Hurricane Otis | ET REALITY


At a large church displaying a large blue cross near Acapulco beach, dozens of people dozed in sleeping bags along the pews, praying silently or anxiously discussing their next move.

Víctor Hugo Sánchez listened carefully to the pleas of desperate people for food, water and gasoline two days after a Category 5 hurricane devastated the city, leaving hundreds of thousands isolated and without basic resources. As of Monday morning, 45 people had been confirmed dead and 47 were missing, according to preliminary figures from the Mexican government.

A woman wanted to know if more jugs of water would arrive soon. A man who traveled from Mexico City thanked Mr. Sánchez for finding his missing relatives. Another woman sobbed softly, asking him to help her out of the battered city.

Mr. Sánchez, a member of the Guerrero state civil protection agency, had been assigned as a coordinator here and at four other makeshift shelters in the area. “I imagine more people will continue to come,” he said Friday. An incomplete list prepared by local authorities identified 1,656 displaced people living in hotels, schools and sports complexes.

“This is chaos,” Sánchez added. “Acapulco is a disaster.”

Inside the church, bottled water was running out. Five plastic boxes and a table were filled with boxes and bottles of medicine, but there were no doctors to prescribe them. And despite Sánchez’s best efforts to ask other authorities to install a community kitchen and a water purifier, no support had arrived by Friday.

Security was also starting to become an issue. “Be careful at night,” she said. “They are doing raids. If they assault you, they take your things. They steal your gasoline.”

But in a city that had been left dark after more than 10,000 power poles were toppled by 165 mile-per-hour winds, the church stood as a bright oasis for anyone who wanted to charge their phones or escape the heat with the breeze. of a fan. The shelter had a scarce resource: a mobile generator delivered by Mexico’s federal electricity commission.

The Mexican government said Monday that it has deployed around 18,000 members of the armed forces in Acapulco, as well as thousands of workers from different institutions.

Erik Rojas, one of the commission’s nearly 2,220 electricians sent to Acapulco after the storm, inspected an industrial refrigerator that contained some of the shelter’s supplies. “The electrical infrastructure is severely damaged,” he said, puzzled why the buzzing machine doesn’t freeze despite the generator.

The commission said Monday that power had been restored to 65 percent of affected residents in Acapulco. But progress is a challenge.

“It’s a total collapse,” said Rojas, 38, who had to spend nights inside his truck. “It’s like building a completely new infrastructure.”

On Thursday, the shelter was packed with visitors from different states of Mexico and foreign countries. Ultimately, Sánchez was able to transport more than 140 of them by bus to the nearest city, Chilpancingo, and to the capital, Mexico City. Most of those who stayed were locals from nearby neighborhoods.

A local resident, Feliciano Olivorio Díaz, 63, a vocalist and drummer who had sought shelter from Otis’ devastating winds, said: “If it got any stronger, it would blow up the entire church. “We are afraid that something will happen again because it is silent outside.”

To lighten the mood, Olivorio Díaz, who lost his vision six years ago, turned on a portable radio and sang. “I sing and the father says things look bright, that we are alive,” he said.

But when he placed his cane against a wall outside the church to play a Mexican cumbia on the radio, only two men were there to hear him sing.

As Olivorio Díaz’s voice echoed in the distance, Martha García, 63, was on a desperate mission.

Her husband, Abel Sánchez, 70, had been released from the hospital on Tuesday, a day before the hurricane hit Acapulco, after contracting pneumonia three months ago. “It’s like misfortune follows us,” she said through tears.

Mrs. Garcia had left her sick husband at home and had come to the shelter hoping someone could help her find an oxygen tank. Her own tank, the only thing helping her breathe, she said, would run out of oxygen the next day.

But across the city, the health care system was also destroyed. Even the headquarters of the Mexican Ministry of Health in Acapulco was severely damaged.

At a hospital about five kilometers from the church, Lucía Soriano, 43, knocked on the closed metal door on Friday. The basement of the building was completely flooded with dark water and debris; Broken windows marked the facade.

A security guard emerged from the hallways, following the noise. Soriano’s 77-year-old mother was scheduled for eye surgery that morning, she told him.

“There is no service because there is no electricity. There is no gasoline. There is nothing,” she interrupted and added that there was only a small cleaning team inside. There were no doctors there and no surgeries would be performed in the near future, she said.

“I’ll be back on Monday,” Soriano said as he walked away, “to see what they tell me about the appointment, because it’s already paid for.”

Even finding food and other supplies has been a major obstacle in the city. Almost all of Acapulco’s shops, supermarkets and warehouses have been dismantled, although the government has begun distributing supplies.

Back at the church, Garcia said he had come across flour tortillas and canned beans in a looted store. “That’s what we’ve been eating and what I’ve been giving to my husband,” he said.

He had no plans to evacuate anytime soon. “What I need is oxygen.”

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