Mexico hit again by strengthened Manuel

September 19, 2013

Storm-battered Mexico absorbed more damage Thursday from the drenching Pacific system known as Manuel, which inflicted its second strike on the country in less than five days, this time at hurricane strength.

Manuel and a system that has swamped Mexico’s gulf coast, Ingrid, are blamed for at least 97 deaths so far this week and have washed out roads, ruined crops and severed communications in wide swaths of the country.

After delivering its first blow as a tropical storm Sunday in southwestern Mexico, Manuel returned to the Pacific and drifted northward, reorganizing and gathering new momentum. It made landfall again Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane and flooded fishing villages along the Sea of Cortez, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. At least 100,000 people suffered damage to their homes, state authorities said.

Mexico’s hardest-hit region has been the southwestern coastal state of Guerrero, including the resort area of Acapulco, where Manuel’s landfall Sunday left tens of thousands of tourists stranded and triggered devastating mudslides in nearby communities.

The Mexican government has mobilized troops and organized relief flights to Acapulco to deliver supplies and evacuate tourists, but large portions of the city remain flooded, including the airport terminal. Television footage has shown looters ransacking a local Costco and a crocodile thrashing around on one city street.

The death toll from the storms is expected to rise as authorities reach remote mountain towns cut off by mudslides. In La Pintada, a village outside Acapulco, at least 58 people remained missing after a hillside collapsed, swamping homes with gushing mud.

“It was as if the mountain exploded,” said Amelia Saldaña Gregorio, telling Mexico’s El Universal that her four children and mother were entombed in the sludge. “It came crashing down in seconds, carrying away houses and burying others.”

The government has yet to release estimates of the overall damage caused by Manuel and Ingrid, but Treasury officials said they had set aside $1 billion in relief funds. Aerial photos released by federal officials show several roadways and bridges washed out by the storms, including portions of major arteries, such as the “Highway of the Sun” linking Acapulco to Mexico City.

Yet another storm system was brewing Thursday near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It would be dubbed “Jerry” if it achieves tropical storm strength.

Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.

Nick Miroff is a Latin America correspondent for The Post, roaming from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to South America’s southern cone. He has been a staff writer since 2006.
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