Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

58 more missing in Mexico storms

Hundreds of stranded tourists gather around a Mexican Air Force jet as they wait to be evacuated at the air base in Pie de la Cuesta near Acapulco, Mexico (AP)

Fifty-eight people are missing feared dead after a massive landslide smashed through a tiny coffee-growing village deep in Mexico's southern mountains as storms battered the country. Rescuers were battling heavy rain as they tried to evacuate the last 45 residents of La Pintada.

The same storm that devastated Acapulco and surrounding areas over the weekend regenerated into Hurricane Manuel and was swirling into the Pacific coast again, this time further north, just offshore from the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan.

The US National Hurricane Centre said the Category 1 hurricane was expected to move slightly inland and continue to dump rain on fishing villages. It is a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel's first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico's eastern coast.

Officials raised the death toll from the passage of Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid from 60 to 80 yesterday. They said they were not yet including landslide victims in the village of La Pintada, several hours north of Acapulco, but "It's very likely that these 58 missing people lost their lives," said Angel Aguirre, governor of storm-battered Guerrero state.

Heavy rains also began pelting the state of Guerrero again, where tons of dirt and rocks smashed through the centre of La Pintada, burying a church and a number of two-storey homes.

Federal authorities reached La Pintada by helicopter and evacuated 334 people, some of whom are hurt, one seriously, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

He said the landslide went right through the middle of the village of some 600 people, accessible in normal conditions by winding mountain roads now broken multiple times by landslides and flooding. In Acapulco, three days of Biblical rain and leaden skies evaporated into broiling late-summer sunshine that roasted thousands of furious tourists trying vainly to escape the city, and hundreds of thousands of residents returning to homes devastated by reeking tides of brown floodwater.

The depth of the destruction wreaked by Manuel, which first hit Mexico on Sunday as a tropical storm, was highlighted when the transport secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities could clear and reconnect the parallel roads that connect the bayside resort to the rest of the world.

Hundreds of residents of Acapulco's poor outlying areas slogged through waist-high water to pound on the closed shutters of a looted Costco, desperate for food, drinking water and other basics.

In Acapulco's upmarket Diamond Zone, the military commandeered a commercial centre for tourists trying to get onto one of the military or commercial flights that remained the only way out of the city. Thousands lined up outside the mall's locked gates, begging for a seat on a military seat or demanding that airline Aeromexico honor a previously purchased ticket.

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