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Deadly tropical storms wreak havoc across Mexico

September 19, 2013

EPN _Acapulco

A wrathful Tlaloc did his best to upstage the Independence Day “Gritos” delivered by the nation’s politicians on Sunday night, as tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid ravaged Mexico from east and west.

The simultaneous storms left an anarchic trail of floods, landslides and broken infrastructure in their wake. Dozens of people are missing and tens of thousands have been left homeless. At least 80 were killed and the death toll continues to rise.

By Wednesday night, the federal Interior Ministry had declared a state of natural disaster in 155 municipalities, 56 of them in Guerrero, the worst hit state in the country, with at least 72 fatalities.

Over 40,000 tourists who spent the holiday weekend in Acapulco were left stranded in the Pacific resort this week, with the airport severely flooded and the main roads out of the city blocked by landslides.

The military commandeered a commercial center for tourists in Acapulco’s upscale Diamante zone and had flown 5,300 people out of the city on 49 flights by Wednesday afternoon, but this represented just a small fraction of those stuck there. The remainder were left with no other means of returning home, as authorities said it would be Friday at the earliest before the highways leading out of the city could be cleared.

Desperate for food, drinking water and other basics, locals and tourists broke into the Zona Diamante branch of Costco under the watchful eye of the federal police, who made no attempt to detain even the more opportunistic looters who made off with electronics piled into their pick-up trucks. The majority who did not have access to working vehicles were forced to trudge through the pungent brown floodwater, at risk of an unwanted encounter with the crocodiles that had been swept from their natural habitat and onto the city streets.

Elsewhere in Guerrero, the situation was just as desperate. A massive landslide in the mountains to the north of Acapulco left scores of people buried in the village of La Pintada, the majority of them feared dead. On Wednesday, federal rescue teams airlifted out 35 residents, several of whom had been seriously injured, and recovered 15 bodies from the town, which was no longer accessible by road. Another 58 people were reported missing.

Acapulco croc

Federal Civil Protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente said 35,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed and 39,000 evacuees were registered across the country by Tuesday afternoon. More than 11,000 houses were destroyed in Guerrero alone and over 12,000 refugees were being cared for in 47 shelters, Governor Angel Aguirre Rivero said on Tuesday.

Across Mexico, the two storms left 415,000 homes without electricity, although power had been restored in 80 percent of these cases by Wednesday, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) reported.

To repair the damage done, the federal government has over six billion pesos in reserve in the National Fund for Natural Disasters, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said. But the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry estimates that the severe damage done to roads in at least ten states could alone exceed 40 billion pesos.

The government came under some criticism for being under-prepared for Manuel and Ingrid. Spanish-language daily La Jornada cited unnamed military sources and experts in civil protection who said that the authorities had underestimated the storms, due to a “lack of coordination” and the distraction of the weekend’s independence-related festivities.

Manuel re-formed into a tropical storm on Wednesday and gained hurricane status before making ​​landfall west of Culiacan, Sinaloa shortly after 6 a.m Thursday. Some 45,000 people were left without power across Sinaloa as the state braced itself for an anticipated 200 to 300 millimeters of rainfall. Manuel was expected to revert to tropical storm status as it moves slowly over the land, also causing up to 150 millimeters of precipitation in Baja California Sur, Nayarit, and Sonora and up to 50 millimeters in western Jalisco.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s southeast was prepared for another round of storms, as the National Water Commission (Conagua) warned on Thursday that there was a 70 percent chance of Ingrid transforming into a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours and bringing very heavy rainfall to Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatan. Ingrid was previously downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm just before striking Mexico’s Gulf Coast early on Monday morning.

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6 Comments leave one →
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