Mexico hurricane death toll hits 39; president slams critics

By Reuters   October 28, 2023 | 04:51 pm PT
The death toll from a devastating hurricane this week in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco has risen to 39, the government said on Saturday, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accused his opponents of overblowing the extent of the disaster.
A man walks among rubble, in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis, in Acapulco, Mexico, October 28, 2023. Photo by Reuters

A man walks among rubble, in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis, in Acapulco, Mexico, October 28, 2023. Photo by Reuters

Hurricane Otis pounded Acapulco with winds of 165 miles per hour (266 km per hour) on Wednesday, flooding the city, tearing roofs from homes, stores and hotels, submerging vehicles, and severing communications as well as road and air connections.

The government has so far released little information about dead and injured. The latest death toll was up from 27 reported previously, with four others missing due to Otis.

Lopez Obrador issued a 24-minute video on social media to update the country on the situation. He devoted much of it to attacking critics he accused of trying to exploit the situation ahead of next year's presidential election.

"They circle like vultures, they don't care about people's pain, they want to hurt us, for there to have been lots of deaths," he said.

Lopez Obrador, 69, said media outlets seeking to smear his government had exaggerated the toll, but that Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez would provide an update on casualties "without lying."

"Let her tell us ... how many people have really lost their lives so far," he said, adding his administration was doing more than any government had "ever done" to handle the aftermath.

Rodriguez said the victims were believed to have drowned due to the Category 5 storm and that 10 people were unaccounted for.

Looting has ravaged Acapulco since the record-breaking storm left thousands of residents struggling to get food and water.

Many people have complained of insufficient government aid to Acapulco. Some officials have privately expressed concern that the number of fatalities could rise.

"Help hasn't come," said Carlos Diaz, 31, a teacher, standing amid scattered palm fronds on the beach. "We're alone, there's no sign of the government."

The dead were 29 men and 10 women, the government said, citing figures from Guerrero, Acapulco's home state.

It said more than 220,000 homes and 80% of the hotel sector have been affected, and over 513,000 people lost power.

The cost of devastation left by Otis has been estimated at billions of dollars, and over 8,000 armed forces members were sent to help the stricken port recover.

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.

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