Hurricane Otis Aftermath Devastates Acapulco

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The devastating landfall of Category 5 Hurricane Otis during the early hours of Wednesday, Oct. 25, has transformed Mexico’s coastal resort town of Acapulco into an utter wasteland.

Still littered with debris, fallen trees and remnants of battered buildings nearly one week out from the horrific meteorological event, the famed Guerrero metropolis is now completely unrecognizable from its former glory as one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations.

According to satellite images from the European Union’s Copernicus program, more than 63% of Acapulco’s real estate has been rendered utterly unusable by the storm’s powerful 270 kilometer per hour winds, affecting approximately 580,000 residents of the seaside municipality.

Acapulco’s infrastructure was also delivered a catastrophic blow; Copernicus imagery showed 1,157 kilometers of destroyed roads, 98 kilometers of ruined telephone and electricity lines and 494 hectares of airport damage caused by Hurricane Otis, one of the Pacific’s most powerful storms on record.

“The hurricane flooded streets, tore off roofs from houses and hotels, submerged cars and cut off communications, roads and air access, leaving a trail of debris in Acapulco, a city of almost 900,000 inhabitants,” read Copernicus’ Emergency Management Service (CEMS) analysis.

While the federal government sent in some 10,000 elements from the Armed Forces, Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) and National Guard (GN) on Friday, Oct. 27 to aid with the local community’s recovery, the lack of available resources has taken a major toll on Acapulco’s population.

With supermarkets and stores out-of-service and their goods swept into oblivion by the storm, Acapulco residents – stranded without food and water – reportedly began looting the remnants of any products that managed to survive the storm from the now-defunct shops.

Many citizens have been left helpless without electricity and internet for days; however, Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) promised to restore 90 percent of electricity to the area by the end of Monday night, with major telecommunications company Telmex also claiming that it had regained full control of its regional network and subsequently restored service to 41 percent of Acapulco. 

The disastrous aftermath of Otis has also left major confusion surrounding the hurricane’s climbing death toll, with the Mexican federal government and the Guerrero state government each reporting different figures.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, the Mexican federal government reported a death toll of 48 people – a claim that was contradicted by Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado, who’s numbers placed 47 missing and 45 left deceased in the storm’s wake, just one day later.

But as the dust from Hurricane Otis settles and piles of rubble sit lying in wait to be cleared, it’s almost certain – and gut-wrenchingly so – that the death toll will only continue to climb in the days to come.

One comment

  • The title of this article is clever in that it (correctly) insinuates that the main problem in Acapulco was not the actual destruction of the hurricane, but the administrative mess that has transpired in its aftermath (e.g., looting of Walmart and other stores). The slow and inept response of the government bears the brunt of the blame. It is instructive to compare the U.S. response in 2017 to Houston after hurricane Harvey and Puerto after hurricane Maria. The former city bounced back in months while the latter is still struggling.

    P.S. I am writing this from CDMX, but have had a home in Colonia Jardin Palmas, km 8, for 30 years. Iit easily survived Paulina, but I have no way of knowing the extent of the damage because telephone contact with my neighbors has not yet been established.

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