ACAPULCO, Mexico (ISH) – Mexican military and commercial flights airlifted hundreds of tourists stranded in the flooded resort of Acapulco, where thousands of looters ransacked stores after two deadly storms struck the country.
The official death toll rose to 57 on Sept. 17 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 Sept. 16, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Manuel regenerated as a tropical depression south of the Baja California peninsula.
Officials said 40,000 Mexican and foreign beachgoers were marooned in Acapulco hotels after landslides blocked the two main highways out of the resort city on the Pacific Coast, 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, TVs and even fridges while soldiers and Federal Police watched.
Other looters broke glass doors to enter shops in two malls, snatching home appliances and mattresses.
Meanwhile, tourists and residents formed huge lines to buy food at three supermarkets that remained open.
Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong warned it would take two to three days to reopen the two highways out of Acapulco, which is 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 airlines.
The military and Aeromexico and Interjet airlines began to fly people to Mexico City. Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, the secretary of communications and transportation, said around 600 people had been flown out so far as of the night of Sept. 17.
Interjet President Miguel Alemán Magnani said flying into Acapulco was complicated because the radar wasn’t working and there were few dry spots on the runway.
Aeromexico said it planned to fly 2,000 people out by Sept. 18.
Some 2,000 people were 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 first military flight carrying aid landed late on Sept. 16.
More than half the city was flooded, officials said. Some residents traveled on Jet Skis while Federal Police said helicopters rescued some 200 people from rooftops.
Osorio Chong said the weather systems affected 254 towns nationwide, forced 39,000 people to evacuate and caused 100 rivers to overflow, and at least 57 people died.
It was the first time since 1958 that two tropical storms hit Mexico within 24 hours.
Manuel struck the Pacific coast on Sept. 15 while Ingrid weakened from hurricane to tropical storm strength as it made landfall on the northeastern coast on Sept. 16.