Mexican military and commercial flights airlifted hundreds of tourists stranded in the flooded resort of Acapulco on Tuesday, where thousands of looters ransacked stores after two deadly storms struck the country.
The official death toll rose to 47 after the tropical storms, Ingrid and Manuel, swamped large swaths of Mexico during a three-day holiday weekend, sparking landslides and causing rivers to overflow in several states.
Several regions were still being battered by heavy rains and floods. While Ingrid dissipated after hitting the east coast on Monday, the US National Hurricane Center said Manuel regenerated as a tropical depression south of the Baja California Peninsula.
Officials said 40,000 Mexican and foreign tourists were marooned in Acapulco hotels after landslides blocked the two main highways out of the Pacific city, while knee-high dark water covered the airport’s terminal, cutting off the picturesque resort city of 680,000 people.
Back in town, thousands of looters streamed out of the Costco wholesale store in the exclusive Diamante district, wading out of the flooded store with food, televisions and even fridges, while soldiers and federal police looked on, correspondents said.
“We are taking food to our children, there’s nothing to eat,” a woman hauling away grocery bags said.
Other looters broke glass doors to enter shops in two malls, snatching home appliances and mattresses.
“We can’t stop them. We are in a serious emergency situation,” a soldier said, declining to give his name.
Meanwhile, tourists and residents formed huge lines to buy food at the three supermarkets that remained open.
Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong warned it would take two to three days to reopen the two highways out of Acapulco, which lies in the hard-hit southwestern state of Guerrero.
The airport terminal remained closed, but passengers were driven directly to the runway from a concert hall turned into a shelter and operations center for the airport.
The military, and the Aeromexico and Interjet airlines began to fly people to Mexico City. Mexican Transport Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said about 600 people had been flown out so far.
Interjet president Miguel Aleman Magnani said flying into Acapulco was complicated, because the radar was out and there were few dry spots on the runway.
“It’s all visual — like in the old days,” he told radio station Formula.
Aeromexico said it planned to fly 2,000 people out by yesterday.
About 2,000 people were being sheltered at the World Imperial Forum, where tourists lined up at an improvised airline counter, luggage in hand, hoping to get on a flight. Another 1,000 people were taking refuge in a convention center.
The airlines were transporting people with prior reservations first. Aeromexico was charging US$115 and Interjet US$77 for new tickets.
“We’re deciding whether we return by plane or wait for the road to open, but the problem is food,” said Andres Guerra Gutierrez, a Mexico City resident who arrived in Acapulco by car with 14 family members on Friday last week. “It was a weather phenomenon, but they should have warned us that a storm was coming, so we could at least buy food.”
The first military flight carrying aid landed late on Monday.
More than half the city was flooded, officials said. Some residents traveled on jetskis, while federal police said helicopters rescued about 200 people from rooftops.
Osorio Chong said the weather systems affected 254 towns nationwide, forcing 39,000 people to evacuate, causing 100 rivers to overflow and killing at least 47 people.