A man cleans his house in an area affected by Hurricane Otis, in the beach resort of Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, on 30 October 2023. FE/David Guzman

Death toll rises to 48 as Mexico struggles to cope with Hurricane Otis

Mexico City, Oct 30 (EFE).- Five days after the impact of Hurricane Otis, which made landfall Wednesday as a Category 5 hurricane, the Mexican government is making slow progress in the recovery and damage assessment in Acapulco. On Monday, the government raised the death toll to 48 dead and 36 missing.

“We have helped and we will continue to help,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during his morning press conference Monday.

“We are going to get Acapulco and its people back on their feet as soon as possible, and we are already working on it and we are making a lot of progress,” he added.

López Obrador has faced questions about the accuracy of the death toll and criticism from the opposition for failing to respond to the devastation, while hungry and thirsty locals have turned to looting, saying money is worthless with shops closed and humanitarian aid slow to arrive.

Otis, which intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in less than 12 hours to become one of the most powerful cyclones in Pacific Ocean history, left much of Acapulco’s population without communications and authorities are still working to restore services.

Guillermo Nevárez, general director of the Federal Electricity Commission, said that by Monday night, 90% of Acapulco’s power would be restored and that the goal is to have 100% of Acapulco, urban and suburban areas powered by electricity by Tuesday.

Luis Crescencio Sandoval, Secretary of National Defense, said that the National Guard is restoring security in Acapulco and reported that 11,500 members of the Armed Forces are performing security duties. He also said that 78% of the work needed to clean up the main avenues of the Port of Acapulco had been completed.

People bathe and wash their clothes in the Camaron River after Hurricane Otis, in the beach resort of Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, on 30 October 2023. EFE/David Guzman

Inequality and the hurricane

López Obrador affirmed that the structures of Acapulco’s hotels “apparently held up well,” and that “No hotel fell, the steel and concrete structures held up,” he said.

Nevertheless, he explained that the structures of some houses were affected, especially those made of tin and cardboard, “the most humble houses did not resist”.

In light of this, he reiterated that a support plan will be implemented based on a census carried out by the federal government to count the damage.

The president reported that the head of the Tax Administration Service, Antonio Martínez, and other officials will meet this Monday with hotel owners in Acapulco to establish a plan to deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Otis.

“What is important to us is that the owners of restaurants and businesses reach an agreement with those who will help with loans,” he reiterated.

In a joint communiqué, the Bank of Mexico, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, Banjercito and the Association of Mexican Banks announced the implementation of a”Banknote Plan”.

This plan consists of the installation of banking service attention modules so that people can withdraw cash with bank debit or credit cards in cities that require it in the event of natural disasters.

View of an affected house after the passage of hurricane Otis, in the beach resort of Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, on 30 October 2023. EFE/David Guzman

Getting Acapulco back on its feet

The Mexican leader compared the impact of Otis to that of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, United States, which killed 2,000 people, and another hurricane that also hit the coast of Acapulco and caused the death of 200 people, which is why he accused the media of not talking about these events and comparing them to show that “it wasn’t so bad for us.”

He assured that his government knows how to do things “quickly” and pointed out that the 1,500 civil servants, who are people “with the mystique” to help the people, are working to register the damage in Guerrero.

“As soon as possible (Acapulco will be rebuilt), we know how to work to do things well and quickly, and we have the support of the Armed Forces and very responsible civil servants,” López Obrador said. EFE