At least 27 people died due to Hurricane Otis and four others were still missing, Mexico’s government said after one of the most powerful storms to hit the country smashed into the Pacific resort city of Acapulco a day before.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the government was working to re-establish power and clean up the devastation wrought by the category 5 hurricane that tore through the southern state of Guerrero, and left Acapulco incommunicado.
Hurricane Otis rips through Acapulco as communications to city severedRead more
“What Acapulco suffered was really disastrous,” López Obrador said at a regular government press conference on Thursday.
Otis flooded streets, ripped roofs off homes and hotels, and severed communications and road and air access. Downed phone service and electricity lines made it hard for officials to quickly assess the extent of the damage.
López Obrador said the destruction was so complete that not a single power line pole remained standing in the impact zone.
Early images and accounts were of extensive devastation, toppled trees and power lines lying in brown floodwaters that in some areas extended for miles.
Many of the once sleek beachfront hotels in Acapulco looked like toothless, shattered hulks after the category 5 storm blew out hundreds – and possibly thousands – of windows.
In Acapulco, there seemed to be a widespread frustration with authorities. While about 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 from the government electricity company arrived in Acapulco early on Wednesday, but seemed at a loss as to how to restore power, with downed electricity lines lying in feet of mud and water.
Jakob Sauczuk was staying with a group of friends at a beachfront hotel when Otis hit. “We laid down on the floor, and some between beds,” Sauczuk said. “We prayed a lot.”
Sauczuk complained that his group was given no warning, nor were they offered safer shelter, by the hotel.
A damaged building stands after Hurricane Otis ripped through Acapulco, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photograph: Marco Ugarte/AP
Pablo Navarro, an auto parts worker who was lodged in temporary accommodations at a beachfront hotel, said he thought he might die in his 13th-story hotel room.
“I took shelter in the bathroom, and thankfully the door held,” said Navarro. “But there were some rooms where the wind blew out the windows and the doors.”
It took nearly all day Wednesday for authorities to partly reopen the main highway connecting Acapulco to the state capital, Chilpancingo, and Mexico City.
Acapulco’s commercial and military airports were still too badly damaged to resume flights.
Acapulco’s Diamond Zone, an oceanfront area with hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions, seemed to be mostly underwater in drone footage that Foro TV posted online on Wednesday afternoon, with boulevards and bridges completely hidden by an enormous body of brown water.
Otis took many by surprise on Tuesday when it rapidly strengthened from a tropical storm to a powerful category 5 hurricane.
“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.