Hurricane Otis left a trail of destruction in Acapulco after tearing into the historic Mexican beach town with wind speeds of 165 miles (266 kilometers) per hour, smashing shops and wrecking apartment buildings and hotels.
State authorities have reported 27 deaths and four missing persons so far, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said in a press conference Thursday.
Acapulco likely suffered an economic impact of $10 billion to $15 billion, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. There will be added losses because the region’s high season for tourism is December to March.
“The timing is bad,” Watson said, adding that the rapid intensification of the tropical storm into a Category 5 hurricane left little time for preparations. “Everybody got caught off guard.”
Guerrero governor Evelyn Salgado said 80% of hotels had been affected. The hurricane has been “absolutely devastating” and people are working around the clock to restore electricity and communications, she said.
The hurricane “didn’t leave a single light post standing,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday. The casualties are “what hurts the most, because we can repair the material losses,” he said.
AMLO, as the president is known, made the trip to Acapulco in a large SUV as airports remained closed on Wednesday. He had to cross part of the road on foot, along with officials including Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, local media reported. He was back in Mexico City on Thursday for his regular morning press conference.
Access to the beach town was cut off by fallen trees and multiple landslides. Some roads were reopened by Thursday morning, the governor said.
Airport operator OMA said in a statement it was trying to reestablish operations and that no one was injured at its facilities as Otis made landfall. But Rodriguez, the security minister, said the airport’s operations are suspended until further notice.
Acapulco, once a highly popular beach destination that attracted international and local celebrities alike, has seen a dramatic drop in tourism mainly due to narco-related crime over the past decade.
Videos on social media emerging on Wednesday showed buildings and shops without roofs or windows. Fallen palm trees lined the streets alongside broken road signs and light posts.
The lobby of the iconic Princess Hotel had mattresses and wooden furniture stacked where the reception hall used to be, according to one video. A white SUV also made its way into the lobby of the hotel where aviation pioneer and businessman Howard Hughes spent the last few months of his life. The video also shows torn balconies, shattered windows and rain still pouring down on what’s left of the main building.
“I hid in the closet and started praying,” said one woman in an Instagram video showing the hotel’s destruction. “Lights went out at about 11pm. Everything is destroyed,” she said.
About 40% of the town’s electricity has been restored, state-owned utility CFE said Wednesday. America Movil SAB’s fixed phone unit Telcel on Thursday said it had restored its network in the area.
Otis came ashore at 12:25 a.m. local time as a Category 5 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds strong enough to tear homes and businesses apart.
Initial estimates say top winds increased faster than any other storm on record in the eastern Pacific, though post-season analysis may change that, Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said in an interview.
Photograph: Residents survey damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis in Xaltianguis, Guerrero state, Mexico, on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. Hurricane Otis made landfall on Wednesday in the resort city of Acapulco as a Category 4 storm, the strongest ever to strike Mexico’s Pacific coast. Photographer: Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg
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