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Posted October 30, 2023 02:51 AM

Acapulco death toll rises to 43 after Hurricane Otis batters resort city

The death toll from a devastating hurricane that hit the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco last week has risen to 43, the governor of Guerrero state has said.

Evelyn Salgado added that electricity had been restored to 58% of Acapulco and that officials had visited 10,000 families there and the nearby city of Coyuca de Benitez for a census to evaluate damages.

“These have been intense days of non-stop work,” Salgado said, noting that officials were working to distribute aid.

Hurricane Otis pounded Acapulco, in the southern state of Guerrero, with winds of 165mph (266 km/h) on Wednesday, flooding the city, tearing roofs from homes, stores and hotels, submerging vehicles and severing communications as well as road and air connections.

The government has so far released little information about the dead and injured. Looting has continued and residents in hard-hit neighbourhoods, struggling to find food and water, have accused the government of not delivering sufficient aid.

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, accused his opponents of exaggerating the scale of the disaster.

López Obrador issued a 24-minute video on social media on Saturday to update the country about the situation. He devoted much of it to attacking critics, whom he accused of trying to exploit the situation before next year’s presidential election.

“They circle like vultures. They don’t care about people’s pain. They want to hurt us, for there to have been lots of deaths,” he said.

López Obrador, 69, said media outlets seeking to smear his government had exaggerated the death toll, and that the security minister, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, would provide an update on casualties “without lying”.

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“Let her tell us … how many people have really lost their lives so far,” he said, adding that his administration was doing more than any government had “ever done” to handle the aftermath.

Rodríguez said the victims were believed to have drowned as a result of the category 5 storm and that 10 people were unaccounted for.

On Saturday afternoon, rescue teams onboard two inflatable red boats searched the Acapulco bay for casualties. They returned to shore with three bodies wrapped in black bags. Investigators briefly unzipped the bags to photograph the victims.

Some officials have privately expressed concern that the number of deaths could rise. In an earlier announcement, the government had said the death toll included 29 men and 10 women, citing figures from Guerrero.

Authorities said more than 220,000 homes and 80% of the hotel sector had been affected, and more than 513,000 people had lost power.

In the Renacimiento neighbourhood, people padded through streets flooded with murky brown water as high as ankle-level, and lamented the lack of aid.

“The government hasn’t given us any help, not even hope,” said Apolonio Maldonado, lifting his feet from the water to show deep red cuts on his shins. “They haven’t left any food, or even mattresses or cots.”

Martha Villanueva covered her mouth with her hand as she spoke through sobs: “We want help. We lost everything in the water.”

The cost of devastation left by the hurricane has been estimated at billions of dollars, and more than 8,000 armed forces members were sent to help the stricken port recover.

Mexican authorities said Otis was the most powerful storm ever to strike the country’s Pacific coast. It caught forecasters by surprise, gathering strength with unexpected speed before it made landfall, and exceeded initial predictions.

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