In the wake of the catastrophic Hurricane Otis, which struck Acapulco, Mexico, Estela Sandoval Díaz found herself facing a perilous situation.
Seeking refuge in her small concrete bathroom, she feared that these could be her final moments. The hurricane’s force tore off her tin roof, not only destroying her home but also taking away her cherished possessions, hard-earned savings, and the memories of 33 years spent building a life on the outskirts of this often overlooked city.
Sandoval’s experience is just one of many heartbreaking stories of devastation that unfolded as this unprecedented storm wreaked havoc along the Eastern Pacific coast.
The impact of Hurricane Otis has been profound, leaving countless individuals and families in dire need of assistance and support as they work to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of this natural disaster.
The devastating speed at which Hurricane Otis intensified left the once-thriving city of Acapulco in ruins. As a Category 5 hurricane, it caused severe damage to nearly every home in the city, leaving behind a path of destruction and despair.
The aftermath of this catastrophic event was marked by the tragic loss of at least 45 lives, with bodies tragically washing ashore along the coastline.
Furthermore, the storm’s impact left much of the city’s population struggling to find sustenance in a landscape that had been transformed into a barren wasteland.
The unprecedented scale of the disaster has left the city and its inhabitants reeling, with a long and arduous road to recovery ahead.
The resilience and strength of the community will be tested as they work to rebuild and heal from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Otis.
As the authorities diligently labored to restore order in Acapulco’s bustling tourist center, their efforts focused on clearing fallen trees obstructing the entrances of high-rise hotels and restoring power to the affected areas.
However, amidst the chaotic aftermath of the recent events, the city’s most impoverished residents, including individuals like Sandoval, expressed a profound sense of abandonment.
Having endured two harrowing hours of terror last week, they now find themselves confronted with the daunting prospect of rebuilding their already tenuous lives, a process that may span years.
The stark contrast between the swift response and attention given to the tourist district and the perceived neglect of the city’s poorest inhabitants has only deepened the feelings of despair and disillusionment among those who have been left to grapple with the overwhelming challenges ahead.
The statement made by Sandoval about the government’s neglect towards their community has been a long-standing issue in Acapulco.
The aftermath of Hurricane Otis has left residents feeling abandoned and helpless, as the devastation has been widespread and severe.
Despite the efforts of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to deploy government workers and troops to assess the situation and provide assistance, the community remains skeptical and mistrustful of the government’s ability to effectively respond to the crisis.
This sentiment is compounded by the government’s historical prioritization of the resort areas of Acapulco over other parts of the city, leaving residents feeling neglected and frustrated.
However, the President’s recent announcement to distribute 10,000 packages of appliances and other necessities to families in need is a positive step forward and provides some hope for the future.
It is imperative that the government continues to prioritize the needs of all residents affected by the hurricane and work towards rebuilding and restoring the affected areas.
The community’s trust in the government’s ability to provide effective aid and support in times of crisis must be restored, and this can only be achieved through continued and sustained efforts to address the needs of all those impacted by the hurricane.
It remains to be seen whether the government will follow through on its promises and address the long-standing issues faced by the community.
In a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press, it was revealed that only a handful of individuals out of the many interviewed claimed to have received any form of assistance from the government. Furthermore, their expectations regarding aid were disappointingly low.
Among those affected by this lack of support is Sandoval and her family, who have been residing in close proximity to the luxurious beachside high-rises and upscale shops that adorn Acapulco’s prestigious Diamond Zone.
Despite their proximity to such opulence, their living conditions in a two-room concrete house are far from glamorous. With no access to potable water and unpaved roads, the allure of this district has never reached their doorstep.
Known locally as the “sunken neighborhood,” Viverista is consistently the hardest hit by natural disasters. It was only three years ago that Sandoval experienced a sense of pride when, after saving for a quarter of a century, she managed to install a foot of concrete flooring and a new metal roof to prevent flooding during rainstorms.
However, that moment of accomplishment felt like a distant memory as Sandoval and her children sifted through their waterlogged possessions on a dreary Friday.
“I was overwhelmed with joy as I finally witnessed the completion of a sturdy roof atop my humble abode, transforming it into a thing of beauty.
However, my elation has been replaced by a profound sense of despair, and for the first time in ages, tears stream down my face uncontrollably.
The current state of uncertainty is truly unfathomable,” lamented the 59-year-old with a heavy heart. “I worry that I may not live to see our lives restored in the next two decades.”
The once peaceful surroundings of their home have been overtaken by foul-smelling water, reaching levels up to their ankles.
Seeking shelter, Sandoval, her spouse, and two neighboring families have resorted to sleeping under a makeshift shelter made from a metal sheet propped against the house.
In her bedroom, Sandoval carefully sorted through the remnants, assessing the irreparable damage and meticulously planning the rationing of essential resources such as water and cooking gas.
The Mexican government has officially recorded over 220,000 homes that have been damaged, and the number of missing individuals is at 47.
With the slow response from authorities and the immense scale of destruction, most residents expect the death toll to inevitably rise.
In fact, a prominent business leader from a city affected by the catastrophe has estimated that the number of casualties will surpass 100.
Military personnel, public security officials, and forensic experts, when approached by the Associated Press, expressed their inability to disclose any specifics regarding the death toll or the ongoing search for bodies.
Meanwhile, thousands of distraught family members are frantically scouring the affected areas in a desperate attempt to locate their missing loved ones.
In a display of frustration on Saturday, President López Obrador vehemently criticized those who had questioned his administration’s response to the hurricane, accusing journalists and political opponents of inflating the number of casualties.
He assured the public that Mexico’s security minister would soon provide an update on the human toll, promising transparency and honesty in the process.
In a recent statement, López Obrador expressed his belief that those responsible for the devastating effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes do not actually care about the pain and suffering of people, but rather have ulterior motives aimed at causing harm.
This sentiment arose in the wake of the rapid intensification of Hurricane Otis, which caught many off guard as it transformed from a tropical storm into the strongest hurricane to make landfall on the Eastern Pacific coast.
Climate experts have attributed this unexpected surge in strength to the impact of climate change, as rising sea temperatures provide the necessary fuel for storms like Otis to rapidly intensify.
Climate scientist Jim Kossin noted that these extreme events are becoming increasingly common, aligning with what is expected as the climate continues to warm.
Furthermore, the aftermath of Hurricane Otis has once again shed light on the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on impoverished communities and nations.
This serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for global action to address the climate emergency and protect the most vulnerable populations.
In the wake of the destructive hurricane, Sandoval and her husband were abruptly awakened by the deafening sound of 165-mph winds and the crashing of trees in the dead of night.
With a sense of urgency, they hurriedly fled their home and sought refuge in the concrete bathrooms, holding on tightly to the flimsy plastic doors that threatened to be torn away by the relentless force of the hurricane.
As the rain drizzled steadily, Sandoval emerged from the safety of the bathrooms around 2 a.m., only to be confronted with the sight of her furniture drenched and her fridge, stove, and other belongings destroyed beyond repair.
She couldn’t help but notice a pervasive sense of sadness lingering in the air, as if the storm had left an indelible mark on the very atmosphere.
With limited supplies of food, water, and gasoline, and no means of communication due to the absence of cellphone service, Sandoval and her family found themselves in a precarious situation, left with no choice but to scavenge for essential provisions in sparsely stocked supermarkets.
As ardent supporters of López Obrador, they held onto the hope that the government would fulfill its promise of assistance. However, days went by, and the only signs of official presence were the navy helicopters circling overhead.
“When you find yourself completely engulfed by a calamity of this magnitude—something so fragile yet so violently destructive—you can’t help but wonder when help will arrive,” Sandoval lamented, reflecting the sentiments of many others in similar predicaments.
In the aftermath of the storm, the city descended into a state of lawlessness. The main road was obstructed by fallen trees and debris for an entire day, effectively isolating the city’s one million inhabitants from the outside world, as there was no means of communication available.
Left with no alternatives, Sandoval and countless others resorted to taking basic necessities like food and toilet paper from looted stores and siphoning gasoline from broken-down gas stations.
Those with chronic illnesses scrambled to find the life-saving medication they desperately needed.
Residents, desperate for sustenance, waited for hours under the scorching sun, hoping for food and water from government aid trucks, only to be met with disappointment as the supplies proved insufficient.
Children stood by the roadside, waving empty water bottles, while families pleaded for help from passing cars with shattered windshields and military trucks.
Natividad Reynoso, a 41-year-old resident whose plant-selling business to hotels was decimated by the storm, expressed concerns about the long-term consequences for Acapulco’s main economic engine: tourism. “We are a city that thrives on tourism,” she emphasized, highlighting the profound impact the disaster would have on the local economy.
As the weekend approached, cellphone signals were gradually restored, aid began to be distributed, and the military undertook the arduous task of clearing debris and fallen trees from the city center.
However, this stark contrast between the city center and impoverished areas underscored the prevailing chaos still gripping the latter.
Fisherman Eleazar García Ramirez, 52, was still grappling with the extent of the devastation as he repaired a boat with a cracked mast on the beach, surrounded by the remnants of destroyed vessels and uprooted trees.
He recounted how he had spent recent days diving into the ocean to retrieve bloated bodies floating next to sunken boats.
García Ramirez had weathered the storm on a fishing boat entrusted to him by his employer, fearing that refusing the task would jeopardize his livelihood.
“Fishing is our means of survival, and there aren’t many opportunities in Acapulco,” he explained, highlighting the precarious economic circumstances faced by many in the region.
He revealed that most of the bodies he and others discovered were those of fishermen who were apprehensive about losing their source of income or yacht captains instructed by owners to remain with their vessels. Authorities confirmed that the majority of the bodies found in recent days had died due to drowning.
When the storm was still classified as a Category 2 hurricane, García Ramirez and other fishermen had pulled their boats onto Manzanilla Beach.
His friend had been keeping watch over a boat located 20 meters away. However, as the waves surged, García Ramirez found himself being pulled into the tumultuous waters, hearing desperate cries for help as he clung onto the boat’s metal poles.
When he finally managed to peer into the darkness of the night, he saw his friend’s boat drifting alone in the vast sea. His friend was nowhere to be seen.
“It’s truly heartbreaking because many of these people didn’t need to be out on those boats, but their employers simply didn’t value their lives,” he lamented. “Their sole concern is their own economic prosperity, with no regard for the well-being of their workers.”