ACAPULCO, Mexico, Oct 28 (Reuters) – The death toll from a devastating typhoon in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco this week rose to 39, with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accusing his opponents of exaggerating the toll. of disaster.
Hurricane Otis lashed Acapulco on Wednesday with winds of 165 miles per hour (266 kmph), flooding the city, tearing roofs off homes, shops and hotels, submerging vehicles, and cutting communications and road and air links.
The government, which earlier reported 27 deaths and four missing, has so far released little information on the dead and injured. Looting continues and residents of hard-hit neighborhoods struggle to find food and water, accusing the government of not providing enough aid.
Lopez Obrador posted a 24-minute video on social media on Saturday. He devoted much of it to attacking critics who he accused of trying to exploit the situation ahead of next year’s presidential election.
“They are circling like vultures, they don’t care about people’s pain, they want to hurt us because there have been a lot of deaths,” he said.
López Obrador, 69, said the number had been exaggerated by media seeking to smear his government, but that Defense Minister Rosa Isela Rodriguez would “not lie” and give an update on the casualties.
“Let her tell us … how many people have actually lost their lives so far,” he said, adding that his administration was doing “something no government has ever done” to deal with the aftermath.
Rodriguez said the victims were believed to have drowned due to the Category 5 storm and 10 others were missing.
On Saturday afternoon, rescue teams in two inflatable red boats searched for drownings in Acapulco Bay. Three bodies returned to shore wrapped in black bags.
Investigators briefly unwrapped the bags to photograph the victims.
Some officials have privately expressed concern that the death toll could rise. The government said the dead were 29 men and 10 women, citing figures from Acapulco’s home state of Guerrero.
More than 220,000 homes and 80% of the hotel sector were affected, and more than 513,000 people lost power.
In the Renacimiento neighborhood, residents waded through streets flooded with ankle-deep dark brown water and lamented the lack of help.
“The government has given us no help, not even hope,” said Apolonio Maldonado, lifting his legs out of the water to show deep red cuts on his jaws. “They didn’t leave food, mattresses or even a bed.”
And walking down a flooded street, Martha Villanueva covered her mouth with her hand and cried: “We need help. We’ve lost everything in the water.”
The cost of the devastation left by Otis was estimated at billions of dollars, and more than 8,000 members of the armed forces were sent to recover the stricken port.
Mexican officials said Otis was the most powerful storm to hit Mexico’s Pacific coast. It surprised forecasters, gathering strength at an unexpected speed before making landfall, surpassing initial predictions.
Statement of Acapulco by Josue Decavele, Quetzalli Nicte-Ha, Jose Cortes; By Dina Beth Salomon in Mexico City Editing by Dave Graham, Diane Croft, David Gregorio and Raju Gopalakrishnan
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.