Looting breaks out in Acapulco after 165mph Hurricane Otis rips city to shreds
The iconic Mexican beach resort has been left in tatters.
Roofs were torn from homes, stores and hotels, the streets were flooded with vehicles submerged underwater and communications were severed, including road and air connections.
Billions of dollars worth of damage has been caused and more than 8,000 troops have been sent to help local residents and tourists alike who have been left with limited access to food and water.
But with people struggling to get hold of essential items, they’ve resorted to ravaging what remains at supermarkets and other stores.
Some tourists say they’ve even been instructed by soldiers to loot from shops due to a lack of supplies available in the stricken port city.
Paola Ruiz Velasco, a tourist from Mexico City, said: ‘I went to the naval base because they said there was a shelter there, but the soldiers just stared at me like I was crazy.
‘They didn’t even give us a bottle of water, nothing. They told us to go and steal from a store so we could have something.’
Jeff, a 65-year-old Canadian in Acapulco, said he was stuck in the city and worried how he would survive the coming days because ‘all the stores have been pillaged’.
‘The disaster here is unbelievable,’ he said. ‘We don’t see anything happening except people trying to scavenge everything they can to survive for the next couple of weeks or months.’
Acapulco resident Rodolfo Villagomez said: ‘Right now, money’s no use to us because there’s nothing to buy, everything’s been looted.’
Speaking of the carnage when Otis pounded the city, he added: ‘It was total chaos. You could hear it here hissing like a bull.’
On Thursday evening, people carried off goods including food, water and toilet paper from stores. Shelves have been swept clean.
One woman told Reuters: ‘We came to get food, because we don’t have any.’
Footage showed people carrying boxes from a wrecked supermarket and loading up cars, while pictures show others taking items in trolleys.
‘There were acts of looting in some places because there was an emergency,’ president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday, urging residents not to take advantage of the situation.
Elsewhere, household debris was littered among ruined deck chairs and jumbles of mangled trees outside wrecked homes.
Speaking at a regular press conference, Mr Lopez Obrador said the government would help people in the city of nearly 900,000 in the southern state of Guerrero, one of Mexico’s poorest.
But many residents said the aid was insufficient.
‘All the stores are closed or destroyed,’ said Raul Busto Ramirez, 76, an engineer who works at Acapulco’s airport.
He blamed looting on shortages and said ATM machines were out of action, leaving people with no cash.
The government has released little information about the dead and injured, saying only that four people are also missing – some officials privately express concern the death toll will rise.
Letitia Murphy said she began to worry when she lost contact with her ex-husband and father of her two children, 59-year-old Briton Neil Marshall, who was in Acapulco when Otis hit.
Ms Murphy said she found out on social media he had died after residents discovered his body close to where he was staying.
‘We can’t even get information about him,’ she said. ‘It’s horrible that we don’t know what to do.’
The Mexican and British governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mexican authorities said Otis was the most powerful storm ever to strike Mexico’s Pacific coast.
It caught forecasters by surprise, gathering strength with unexpected speed before it came ashore, and surpassed initial predictions.
Still, Mr Lopez Obrador said: ‘We were lucky. Nature, the creator protected us, even with the fury of the hurricane.
‘There’s a lot of material damage but luckily we’re not registering too many deaths.’
To evacuate tourists, an air bridge between Acapulco and Mexico City was being set up on Friday after authorities got the city’s battered airport back up and running.
The government has yet to estimate the cost of Otis, but Enki Research, which tracks tropical storms and models the cost of their damage, saw it likely ‘approaching $15billion’, which is around £12.3billion.
Mr Lopez Obrador urged insurance companies to speed up payouts, while governments sent messages of solidarity to Mexico, and Pope Francis expressed his condolences on Friday.
US president Joe Biden expressed his condolences for the hurricane’s victims in a brief statement on Friday evening, pledging ‘full support’ to Mexico’s government as well as help, ensuring US citizens in the area are safe.
State power utility CFE said on Friday it had restored 50% of the electricity service in Guerrero and Mexican telecommunications company America Movil had re-established nearly 60% of mobile phone service.
Another weather front that could produce more heavy rain is expected to gain strength off Central America in the coming days, again moving toward southern Mexico.
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