2023November 2023International NewsAmericas

Hurricane Otis Rips Apart Southern Mexico as The Death Toll Rises.

Clare Dueweke
Staff Writer

On Wednesday October 25 Hurricane Otis made landfall in Acapulco, Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a Category five hurricane, the storm rapidly intensified on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Reuters reports that Acapulco has a population of around 900,000 that suffered from Otis’s destruction. 

Volunteers and government workers have been sent to help aid Acapulco, but many individuals still lack access to food, water, and other essentials. Limited resources have resulted in looting throughout the city which is causing the death toll to rise. On Sunday October 29, the government reported that 48 people have died and six remain missing in the destruction. As wreckage is cleared, it is likely that these numbers will rise.

Many have lost their homes, businesses, and loved ones due to flooding and downed powerlines making communication difficult. Acapulco’s citizens rely heavily on tourism through resorts and beaches for revenue. In preliminary reports by CNN, about 80 percent of the hotels in the area have been damaged, which could result in economic loss for many. According to PBS NewsHour, this has caused many to fear that the government will focus on repairing resorts and beaches to regain tourism revenue, rather than aiding needy citizens that work at these resorts.

Otis landed just several months before Mexico’s next presidential election. Reuters says that many have been critical of current president Lopez Obrador and his efforts in aiding Acapulco. Obrador has been accused of downplaying the situation and rebranding private donations to ‘government donations’. The government has been slow to respond but has sent about 10,000 troops to help clear wreckage and provide medical aid.

Otis reminded many residents of the 1997 Hurricane Pauline that hit Acapulco, says NBC. Like Otis, Pauline destroyed the city and killed more than 200 people. Tucked between the luxury resorts, many in Acapulco live in small towns at the base of the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains. During both Otis and Pauline, extreme rainfall caused flooding that resulted in mudslides that injured many residents. Unlike in 1997, as cellular coverage has returned, citizens have been able to report their missing loved ones through apps like WhatsApp and Facebook, reports The Associated Press. Technology has helped many reunite with their loved ones and has helped workers provide aid where it is needed most.

Acapulco used to have the reputation of a luxury getaway that drew many Hollywood stars and tourists to the area says The Associated Press. Since then, crime in Acapulco has driven much of that tourism away. Just last year, five men were shot in an attack at a resort bar reports The Associated Press in another article. Theft, drugs, and homicide have continued to plague Acapulco further causing its reputation to fall. This could be detrimental to Acapulco’s recovery from Otis because tourism has already been steeply declining in recent years. Otis will only further that decline and cause revenue to fall.

It will take time to rebuild Acapulco after this destruction. President Obrador has made restoring electricity his top priority now, but there are still many that have no food or water. Several shelters were opened prior to the storm that have been providing aid, but just like any recovery from a natural disaster, reconstruction will be slow. According to CNN, President Biden has issued a statement offering his administration’s full support to the Mexican Government to ensure the safety of American citizens. 

The destruction of Acapulco has caused death, destruction and heartbreak across Mexico and the world. Though Acapulco is known for their luxury getaways, many that allow these resorts to function are the ones that have suffered the most. With aid and time, Acapulco will recover and hopefully tourism will return to the area, but right now, the people of Acapulco need all the help they can get.

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