The tropical paradise of Acapulco is still reeling after Category 5 Hurricane Otis hit the city – unleashing massive floods, widespread destruction and killing 27 people.
At least four people, including three military personnel, were still missing as of Thursday morning, a day after the powerful storm made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour – making it the strongest on record for a landfalling Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador toured an area of the battered vacation resort city and said that Otis toppled every power-line pole in the zone, leaving most of the city’s 1 million residents without electricity.
‘The people sheltered, protected themselves and that’s why fortunately there weren’t more tragedies, loss of human life,’ López Obrador said.
López Obrador said Hurricane Otis caused Acapulco’s municipal water system to be shut down and that the main focus would be to restore power to at least 500,000 homes that were left without electricity.
One of the fatal victims, the presidents revealed, was a solder who died after a wall inside his home collapsed on him.
The disastrous weather front was centered about 55 miles south-southeast of Acapulco, and its ruinous effects were also moving north-northwest at 9 mph.
Acapulco descended into devastating chaos, leaving residents without electricity or internet service – and the true toll of the disaster still remains uncertain.
The early images and accounts were of extensive devastation, toppled trees and power lines lying in brown floodwaters that extended for miles.
The tropical paradise of Acapulco is still reeling after Category 5 Hurricane Otis hit the city – unleashing massive floods and widespread destruction. Parts of a fallen building are seen here spewed across the street
Rescue workers and the army have scrambled to clear up the battered vacation resort city of 1million people after Otis brought maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour
The disastrous weather front was centered about 55 miles south-southeast of Acapulco and moving north-northwest at 9 mph
A muddy woman walks away with stuff she looted from a furniture store after Hurricane Otis unleashed chaos in the city
Many of the once-sleek beachfront hotels in Acapulco looked like toothless, shattered hulks a day after the Category 5 storm blew out hundreds – and possibly thousands – of windows
The resulting destruction delayed a comprehensive response by the government, which was still assessing the damage along Mexico’s Pacific coast, and made residents desperate.
Many of the once-sleek beachfront hotels in Acapulco looked like toothless, shattered hulks a day after the Category 5 storm blew out hundreds – and possibly thousands – of windows.
While some 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 Wednesday, but seemed at a loss as to how to restore power.
Forecasters and meteorologists are baffled at how they did not see Otis’ catastrophic path coming. The city was warned it would just be a tropical storm, but the usually-reliable computer models failed to predict its explosive intensification.
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.’
One of his friends took photos of the windowless, shattered rooms in the hotel.
Sauczuk complained his group was given no warning, or offered safer shelter by the hotel.
Pablo Navarro, an auto parts worker who was lodged in temporary accommodations at a beachfront hotel, 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 room where the wind blew out the windows and the doors.’
People loot a grocery store after Hurricane Otis ripped through Acapulco, Mexico
People wait outside a hotel after the chaos caused by the hurricane
Hundreds of trucks from the government electricity company arrived in Acapulco early Wednesday, but seemed at a loss as to how to restore power, with downed electricity lines lying in feet of mud and water
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks out of the window as his vehicle is stuck in mud near Acapulco, after the passage of Hurricane Otis
One home’s foundations gave way during the calamitous storm
Part of a main road is washed away and destroyed in the high storms
Navarro stood Wednesday outside a discount grocery and household goods store near the hotel zone, as hundreds of people wrestled everything from packs of hot dogs and toilet paper to flat screen TVs out of the muddy store, struggling to push loaded metal shopping carts onto the mud-choked streets outside.
‘This is out of control,’ he said.
Isabel de la Cruz, a resident of Acapulco, tried to move a shopping cart loaded with diapers, instant noodles and toilet paper through the mud.
She viewed what she took as a chance to help her family after she lost the tin roof of her home and her family´s important documents in the hurricane.
‘When is the government ever going to look after the common people?’ she said.
Inside one store, National Guard officers allowed looters to take perishable items like food, but made futile efforts to prevent people from taking appliances, even as people outside loaded refrigerators on top of taxis.
It took nearly all day Wednesday for authorities to partially reopen the main highway connecting Acapulco to the state capital Chilpancingo and Mexico City.
While some 10,000 military troops were deployed to the area, they lacked the tools to clean tons of mud and fallen trees from the streets
A vehicle sits damaged by a traffic sign following the disastrous hurricane
People walk with goods looted from a shopping mall after Hurricane Otis destroyed the vicinity
Obrador and members of his cabinet walk on the mud as they visit the El Kilometro 42 community
The vital ground link allowed dozens of emergency vehicles, personnel and trucks carrying supplies to reach the battered port.
Acapulco´s commercial and military airports were still too badly damaged to resume flights.
Acapulco’s Diamond Zone, an oceanfront area replete with hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions, looked to be mostly underwater in drone footage that Foro TV posted online Wednesday afternoon, with boulevards and bridges completely hidden by an enormous lake of brown water.
Large buildings had their walls and roofs partially or completely ripped off.
Dislodged solar panels, cars and debris littered the lobby of one severely damaged hotel.
People wandered up to their waists in water in some areas, while on other less-flooded streets soldiers shoveled rubble and fallen palm fronds from the pavement.
On Wednesday night the city plunged into darkness. There was no phone service, but some people were able to use satellite phones loaned by the Red Cross to let family members know they were alive.
Alicia Galindo, a 28-year-old stylist in the central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi, was one of the lucky ones to get such a call.
Her parents and brother were staying in Acapulco´s Hotel Princess for an international mining conference when Otis hit early Wednesday with 165 mph winds.
Broken glass is spewed all over the streets following the violent weather front
A looter carries a shopping cart full of goods stolen from a supermarket after the passage of Hurricane Otis in Acapulco
A view shows damage after Hurricane Otis hit, in Acapulco in the Mexican state of Guerrero
People gather outside an hotel after Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco. The city is still reeling from the effects of the destructive weather front
Windows and balconies are blown out of a luxury high rise building in the chaos
A car is damaged by falling debris in the wake of Hurricane Otis
People wait outside an hotel after Hurricane Otis hit
A Mexican National Guard soldier tries to stop looting in a shopping mall
People wait outside their cars as they wait for repair crews to unclog the roads after Hurricane Otis ripped through Acapulco
A woman holds a bay next to some looted goods in Acapulco, Mexico
They told her the worst part of the storm was between 1am and 3am when ‘windows began to fall, floors broke up, mattresses flew, hallways collapsed, doors fell down … until everything was gone,’ she said. Fortunately, they escaped unhurt, she said.
However, Galindo had yet to hear from her boyfriend, who was attending the same conference but staying in a different hotel.
On Tuesday, Otis took many by surprise when it rapidly strengthened from a tropical storm to a powerful Category 5 as it tore along the coast.
‘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.
Acapulco, Técpan and other towns along the Costa Grande in Guerrero were hit hard, according to López Obrador. He said conditions were so bad that communication with the area had been ‘completely lost.’
Later Wednesday, Milenio TV circulated photos of López Obrador trying to make it to Acapulco by ground, in some places getting out to walk. It was not immediately clear if he made it.
Acapulco is at the foot of steep mountains – where luxury homes and slums alike cover the hillsides with views of the Pacific Ocean.
Once drawing Hollywood stars for its nightlife, sport fishing and cliff diving shows, the port has in recent years fallen victim to competing organized crime groups that have sunk the city into violence.
This has in turn driven many international tourists to the Caribbean waters of Cancun and the Riviera Maya or beaches farther down the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca.
López Obrador noted that Otis was a stronger hurricane than Pauline, which hit Acapulco in 1997, destroying swaths of the city and killing more than 300 people.