Hurricane Manuel makes landfall on back of two torrential storms that have left at least 90 dead across country
Mexico, which is reeling from two storms which left more than 97 people dead, was braced for more devastation on Thursday night after a third made landfall.
Hurricane Manuel reached the northwestern state of Sinaloa on Thursday, adding to a growing countrywide crisis that has seen the death toll rising every day along with new reports of acute emergencies requiring attention.
So far the worst affected area has been the southern state of Guerrero which was hit by an earlier version of Manuel when it first made landfall on Monday as a tropical storm before dissipating, returning to sea and regaining strength.
The full extent of the disaster, however, is only now beginning to emerge as news of death, destruction and dwindling supplies of food in mountain communities takes over from the more visible chaos the storm caused in big cities such as Acapulco.
Fifty-eight people were still missing after part of a hillside collapsed on top of much of the coffee-growing village of La Pintada, leaving survivors trapped between a swollen river they cannot cross and the still unstable mountain that is threatening to fall apart again at any moment.
“We have not seen a single body yet and at the moment we are focused on rescuing the villagers still there,” interior minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told MVS Radio. He said that the authorities had already airlifted 300 people to safety but were struggling to get to the remaining 45 because of adverse weather conditions.
The minister revealed that the day’s priorities also included reaching at least three other isolated communities in Guerrero to check out reports of similar, if smaller, landslides.
“There are many places that we cannot get to by land or by air,” he said. The new push to reach marooned towns and villages comes after claims the government ignored poor indigenous communities to focus on big urban centres such as Acapulco.
Even there, however, the authorities are struggling to cope with the crisis that flooded much of the city, including the airport, and left 40,000 holidaymakers trapped and increasingly desperate.
The authorities say that about 12,000 tourists have been airlifted out so far with the help of alternative landing strips. They hope to re-establish the road link between the resort and Mexico City that was blocked by multiple landslides by Friday.
Meanwhile, 21 other Mexican states, out of a total of 32, are also facing serious damage as a result of both Manuel’s first incarnation and Hurricane Ingrid that also hit the mainland on Monday, rolling in from the other side. Osorio Chong said 49,000 people have been evacuated across the country, with 33,000 of them currently housed in shelters.
With no end in sight to the crisis, meteorologists were also monitoring an entirely new weather system they predicted would become a named tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico in the next few hours and could potentially follow a similar path to Ingrid after that. “The panorama does not look good,” Osorio Chong said.
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