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58 more missing after massive Mexico storm

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 19, 2013 at 9:10 am •  Published: September 19, 2013
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ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Mexico's government said 58 people were missing after a massive landslide smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in the country's southern mountains, where fresh waves of rain threatened more danger for rescue workers trying to evacuate the last residents from the isolated hamlet on Thursday.

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. Sinaloa civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding and more than 200 people were evacuated from small fishing villages on the coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center 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.

Hundreds of stranded tourists remained lined up for a second day Thursday at an air base on the outskirts of Acapulco, where military aircraft were slowly ferrying people out of the resort, which was cut off by road from the rest of the country by dozens of landslides and washed-out bridges.

So isolated is Acapulco that cargo ships have been contracted to supply food to the city by sea. Only about 10,000 of the estimated 40,000 stranded tourists have been flown out since the improvised air lift began two days ago.

Increasingly angry, frustrated travelers — many of whom had to wait through the night on the roadside — began to block army trucks heading into the base with what the stranded travelers believed were wealthy, well-connected people or foreigners cutting line to get on airplanes without waiting. The angry crowds forced the trucks to detour a few blocks along the beach to get to the base.

"The problem is that they didn't get in line like all the rest, who spent the night out in the open, hungry," said Blanca Flores, 24, a call center supervisor from Mexico City.

Federal officials raised the death toll from the passage of Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid from 60 to 80 earlier Wednesday. 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.

Heavy rains also began pelting the state of Guerrero again Wednesday night, increasing the risk for federal police trying to evacuate the last 45 residents of the village of La Pintada, where tons of dirt and rocks smashed through the center of town Monday night, burying a church and a number of two-story 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.

Osorio Chong 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.

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