Acapulco was struggling Sunday to recover from the extraordinarily powerful Hurricane Otis, which claimed 48 lives across southern Mexico and provoked widespread power, water and telephone outages.
The picturesque tourist haunt, which once lured Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley, had never experienced a Category 5 storm like Otis, which roared ashore Wednesday and made local landmarks built over decades look like they had been bombed out.
The hurricane’s death toll climbed Sunday as five more people were confirmed dead in Coyuca de Benitez, north of the city.
Some 36 people were still missing, authorities said at midday.
The count of victims has been slow after the storm collapsed telecommunications systems, which have been gradually returning over the weekend. But frustrated survivors, who for days were unable to communicate with loved ones to let them know they were safe, have accused authorities of an inadequate response.
The World Meteorological Organization has described the hurricane as “one of the most rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones on record,” exceeded in modern times only by another Pacific hurricane, Patricia, in 2015.
The speed with which Otis intensified took the government and weather forecasters by surprise, leaving little time to issue warnings and prepare residents for its arrival.
Billions of dollars in damage
As aid finally began to arrive over the weekend, initial estimates put the storm’s damage at around $15 billion.
Some 273,000 homes, 600 hotels and 120 hospitals were damaged, with a number of restaurants and businesses in ruins, the government said.
A security force of some 17,000 was deployed across the area after reports that supermarkets had been looted.
Additionally, the Mexican army and navy established an air bridge to distribute humanitarian aid.
The government had earlier said victims in need of specialized care were being flown to hospitals elsewhere in Mexico.
In 1997, Hurricane Paulina hit the Acapulco region as a Category 4 storm, killing more than 200 people.
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