ACAPULCO, Mexico, Oct 28 (Reuters) – The death toll from the devastating hurricane that struck the beach resort of Acapulco this week has risen to 39, the Mexican government said on Saturday, while President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accused his opponents of exaggerating the size of the hurricane. From the disaster.
Hurricane Otis slammed Acapulco with winds of 165 mph (266 kph) on Wednesday, flooding the city, tearing off roofs from homes, shops and hotels, submerging vehicles, and cutting off communications as well as land and air routes.
The government, which previously announced that 27 people were killed and four others missing, published little information about the dead and wounded. Looting continued, and residents of severely affected neighborhoods, struggling to find food and water, accused the government of not providing adequate aid.
Lopez Obrador on Saturday released a 24-minute video on social media to update the country on the situation. Much of it was devoted to attacking critics whom he accused of trying to exploit the situation before next year’s presidential elections.
He added: “They are circling like vultures, they do not care about people’s pain, and they want to hurt us, because there have been so many deaths.”
Lopez Obrador, 69, said that the media seeking to discredit his government had exaggerated the number of victims, but that Security Minister Rosa Isila Rodriguez would provide an update on the victims “without lying.”
“Let her tell us… how many people have already lost their lives so far,” he said, adding that his administration was doing “more than any government has ever done” to deal with the consequences.
Rodriguez said the victims were believed to have drowned due to the Category 5 storm and that 10 people were missing.
On Saturday afternoon, rescue teams on two red inflatable boats searched Acapulco Bay for drowning victims. They returned to the beach with three bodies wrapped in black bags.
Investigators briefly unpacked the bags to photograph the victims.
Some officials privately expressed concern that the death toll could rise. The dead were 29 men and 10 women, the government said, citing figures from Acapulco’s home state of Guerrero.
It said that more than 220,000 homes and 80% of the hotel sector were affected, and electricity was cut off for more than 513,000 people.
In the Renacimiento neighborhood, residents walked through streets flooded with ankle-deep, murky brown water and lamented the lack of aid.
“The government has not given us any help or even hope,” said Apollonio Maldonado, lifting his feet out of the water to reveal deep red wounds on his legs. “They did not leave any food, or even mattresses or cots.”
As Martha Villanueva wandered down a flooded street, she covered her mouth with her hand as she spoke through sobs: “We want to help. We lost everything in the water.”
The cost of the devastation caused by Otis was estimated at billions of dollars, and more than 8,000 members of the armed forces were sent to help the stricken port recover.
Mexican authorities said Otis was the strongest hurricane ever to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast. It surprised forecasters, gathering strength unexpectedly quickly before reaching shore, exceeding initial expectations.
(Reporting by José Decavili, Quetzali Nikti Ha and José Cortés in Acapulco; Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Dina Beth Solomon in Mexico City Editing by Dave Graham, Diane Kraft, David Gregorio and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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