The Mexican government has been too slow to provide aid, according to area residents interviewed in recent days by national and international media. In the first days after Otis was beaten, according to Javier Alatorre, who hosts a news program on the national television channel TV Azteca and who traveled to Acapulco, “the government was nowhere to be seen.”
“We want help, and we want the government to come to our homes to see how they are doing,” said a woman interviewed by Milenio TV. “We are poor, but we have rights. Why doesn’t anyone come to help us?”
Residents interviewed say they were in desperate need of water, food and other basic necessities, but almost nothing was delivered in the first days. Several Mexican media outlets reported that individuals who wanted to bring relief supplies to the disaster area on their own were stopped by the military. The disaster area is said to be “extremely unsafe.”
Otis grew from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson scale, in a surprisingly short time on October 22, reaching Mexico’s Pacific coast near Acapulco three days later. The storm caused severe damage to the city and nearby villages. Both the world-famous tourist port of Acapulco and the often slums on the city’s outskirts were reduced to rubble. Nearly one million people live in the disaster area.
Mexican authorities announced an emergency plan the night before Otis’s expected arrival and called on residents to evacuate or, if that was not possible, remain indoors and not take to the streets. However, the strength of the hurricane was much greater than expected.
In the first days after Otis’ disappearance, Acapulco and the surrounding area were without power, water, internet and electricity. In the city, according to Javier Alatorre, desperate citizens began looting to provide for their basic needs. First aid from the Mexican government has only arrived in the disaster area since Friday.
It is not clear now how many victims the hurricane claimed. The Mexican federal government reported 39 deaths on Friday, but aid workers and Acapulco residents interviewed by Mexican media refuted this. For example, an NPR correspondent at the scene reported that according to emergency workers, “at least 50 bodies” were recovered in one location in the city on Friday alone.
Telephone communications and the Internet have now been partially restored, but running water and electricity remain elusive. State electricity company CFE has announced that it will take until at least early next year before electricity is fully restored in the city.
President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador is currently under fire after he announced on Saturday afternoon local time that the government would provide relief supplies, including 16,000 liters of water, which critics say falls far short of meeting the immediate needs of the population of 850,000. Acapulco alone. The president was also harshly criticized earlier because he stated during a press conference that people in the disaster area should only accept help from the military.
Journalist Diego Fonseca previously wrote on the “I’m still in shock.”