Fifty-eight people are missing feared dead after a massive landslide smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in Mexico’s southern mountains as storms battered the country.
Rescuers were battling heavy rain as they tried to evacuate the last 45 residents of La Pintada.
The same storm that devastated Acapulco and surrounding areas over the weekend regenerated into Hurricane Manuel and was swirling into the Pacific coast again, this time further north, just offshore from the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan.
The US National Hurricane Centre said the Category 1 hurricane was expected to move slightly inland and continue to dump rain on fishing villages. It is a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel’s first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico’s eastern coast.
Officials raised the death toll from the passage of Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid from 60 to 80 yesterday.
They said they were not yet including landslide victims in the village of La Pintada, several hours north of Acapulco, but “It’s very likely that these 58 missing people lost their lives,” said Angel Aguirre, governor of storm-battered Guerrero state.
Sinaloa state civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding and dozens were evacuated from small fishing villages.
Heavy rains also began pelting the state of Guerrero again, where tons of dirt and rocks smashed through the centre of La Pintada, burying a church and a number of two-storey homes.
Federal authorities reached La Pintada by helicopter and evacuated 334 people, some of whom are hurt, one seriously, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.
He said the landslide went right through the middle of the village of some 600 people, accessible in normal conditions by winding mountain roads now broken multiple times by landslides and flooding.
In Acapulco, three days of Biblical rain and leaden skies evaporated into broiling late-summer sunshine that roasted thousands of furious tourists trying vainly to escape the city, and hundreds of thousands of residents returning to homes devastated by reeking tides of brown floodwater.
The depth of the destruction wreaked by Manuel, which first hit Mexico on Sunday as a tropical storm, was highlighted when the transport secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities could clear and reconnect the parallel roads that connect the bayside resort to the rest of the world.
Hundreds of residents of Acapulco’s poor outlying areas slogged through waist-high water to pound on the closed shutters of a looted Costco, desperate for food, drinking water and other basics.
Many paused and fished in the murky waters for anything of value piling waterlogged clothing and empty aluminum cans into plastic bags.
“If we can’t work, we have to come and get something to eat,” said 60-year-old fisherman Anastasio Barrera, as he stood with his wife outside the store.
With a tropical disturbance over the Yucatan Peninsula headed toward Mexico’s soggy Gulf coast, the country could face another double hit as it struggles to restore services and evacuate those stranded by flooding from Manuel and Ingrid, which hit the Gulf coast.
Mexico’s federal Civil Protection coordinator, Luis Felipe Puente, said 35,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
In Acapulco’s upmarket Diamond Zone, the military commandeered a commercial centre for tourists trying to get onto one of the military or commercial flights that remained the only way out of the city. Thousands lined up outside the mall’s locked gates, begging for a seat on a military seat or demanding that airline Aeromexico honor a previously purchased ticket.
“We don’t even have money left to buy water,” said Tayde Sanchez Morales, a retired electric company worker from the city of Puebla. “The hotel threw us out and we’re going to stay here and sleep here until they throw us out of here.”
Mexican officials said that more than 10,000 people had been flown out of the city on about 100 flights by Wednesday evening, just part of the 40,000 to 60,000 tourists estimated to be stranded in the city.