Two weeks after Hurricane Otis, Acapulco shadow of former self

Two weeks after Hurricane Otis, Acapulco shadow of former self
Two weeks after Hurricane Otis, Acapulco shadow of former self

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Residents of Acapulco return to the Caleta beach to cool off due to the increase in heat after the passage of Hurricane Otis in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico on November 5, 2023. — AFP pic

ACAPULCO, Nov 8 — Families search for missing relatives as shops and bars gradually reopen — two weeks after a devastating hurricane, Mexico’s beachside city of Acapulco is struggling to regain a semblance of normality.

A few bathers soak up the sun on Manzanillo beach, near residential buildings whose windows were smashed by winds that reached 165 miles (270 kilometers) per hour.

At the feet of the 27-floor Marena residence in the exclusive Punta Diamante district, mattresses and cushions lie amid debris on the beach.

Inspired by the shape of a ship’s sail filled with wind, its luxury apartments once sold for more than one and a half million dollars each, but they have been left uninhabitable by the fury of Otis.

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Many businesses have not only been damaged but also looted.

Schools remain closed until further notice.

In Acapulco Bay, navy divers search for missing people among destroyed or submerged yachts.

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At least 48 were killed and more than 30 are still unaccounted for after Hurricane Otis came ashore in the early hours of October 25 as a scale-topping category 5 storm, according to authorities.

Relatives of four crew members from the Litos yacht who disappeared reunite by the sea for the first time.

“We know nothing. I think the government is hiding the truth from us,” Saul Parra says next to a missing persons poster for his brother Fernando.

“It’s time to raise our voice. Time is passing. If we have a chance of finding them alive, it’s slipping through our hands,” he adds.

Aid efforts

On the city’s main beachfront avenue, dozens of residents queue for a free dish of meat and rice.

“Every day we prepare around 4,000 meals,” says Brian Chavez, 22, a volunteer for World Central Kitchen, an organisation that provides food during humanitarian crises.

Elsewhere, the navy distributes toilet paper — part of a wider aid effort by Mexico’s authorities.

A few meters away, a taco restaurant has resumed service.

The kebab-style meat rotates on a spit as Mexican music plays in the background.

On Monday, a major supermarket near the beach reopened its doors, allowing customers to enter in groups of 10, under the control of the army.

“I’m very happy to be able to obtain basic necessities,” says Yameli, a mother who came with her two daughters.

“We bought tomatoes, vegetables, ham, some fruit juice. Some products were missing, like tuna and bread,” she says.

In the middle-class Progreso district, away from the seafront, trash cans pile up on the street in the humid heat.

“It’s starting to stink. They need to be collected urgently” says resident Laura Salvide, who fears the insanitary conditions will cause outbreaks of disease.

A lack of drinking water is another problem, she complains.

A few streets away, garbage collectors are at work.

Guarding neighbourhoods

Tangled power lines hang from pylons in the city, ripped down by the hurricane.

Teams from the state electricity company have been hard at work for the past fortnight repairing damage.

Even so, part of Acapulco is still plunged into darkness after nightfall, including Campeche Street, where residents have made barricades with wooden pallets and corrugated metal sheets.

“We do it for our safety,” says Alfredo Villalobos.

Some residents in the city have even been seen guarding their districts with machetes and baseball bats.

On Monday morning, at the other end of Campeche Street, a decapitated body was found, according to an AFP photographer.

Suspicion quickly fell on criminal gangs who have been settling scores for years in the region, tarnishing Acapulco’s fun-loving reputation.

Down by beach, a night-time bar pumps out loud music on an unlit street.

Rubble is still piled up in front of the establishment.

The city’s nightlife is gradually reawakening, but it is not the same as before Otis.

“We have a really reduced menu,” says Andres Boleo.

He says he makes a round trip of hundreds of miles (kilometers) to collect supplies for his snack bar.

Despite the difficulties, Boleo is sure of one thing: “Acapulco will always be Acapulco.” — AFP

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