Acapulco (Mexico), 19 September: The death toll from devastating twin storms appeared set to nearly double after officials said that 58 people were missing and presumed dead in a massive landslide that smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in the mountains of southern Mexico.
The storm that devastated the Pacific coast over the weekend regained strength yesterday and became Hurricane Manuel, taking a route that could see it make landfall on Mexico’s northwestern coast.
It would be 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.
Federal officials raised the death toll from Manuel 60 to 80 earlier yesterday.
They said yesterday that they were not yet declaring the 58 dead in the village of La Pintada several hours north of Acapulco, but the governor of storm-battered Guerrero state said it was likely they had perished.
The US National Hurricane Center said Manuel had become a relatively small hurricane that was hugging Mexico’s coast late Wednesday and expected to produce 75 mph winds and between 5 and 10 inches of rain over the state of Sinaloa.
Sinaloa state civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding and dozens were evacuated in an area of small fishing villages.
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, burying a church and an untold number of two-story homes.
“It’s very likely that these 58 missing people lost their lives,” Mr Guerrero governor Angel Aguirre told reporters. 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 there was a risk of more landslides.
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 Sunday as a tropical storm, was highlighted when the transportation secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities cleared and reconnected the parallel highways that connect this bayside resort to Mexico City and the rest of the world.