ACAPULCO, Mexico – The death toll rose to 47 Tuesday from the unusual one-two punch of a tropical storm and a hurricane hitting Mexico at nearly the same time. Authorities scrambled to get help into, and stranded tourists out of, the cutoff resort city of Acapulco.
With roads blocked by landslides, rockslides, floods and collapsed bridges, Acapulco was cut off from road transport after Tropical Storm Manuel made landfall on Sunday. The terminal at the city’s international airport was flooded, but not the landing strips.
Commercial carriers and the Mexican military responded by setting up flights and ferrying tourists to a nearby concert hall instead of the terminal. Emergency flights began arriving in Acapulco to evacuate at least 40,000 mainly Mexican tourists stranded in a city where some streets were transformed into raging brown rivers.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told the Radio Formula that 27 people had died because of the storm in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located. He said 20 more people died nationwide, many as a result of former Hurricane Ingrid, which struck the Gulf coast on Monday. Mexican meteorologists said it was the first time since 1958 that two tropical storms or hurricanes had hit both the country’s coasts in 24 hours.
While most Acapulco hotels seemed to be operating normally on Tuesday, many outlying neighborhoods were without water or electricity, and floodwaters were knee-deep at the city airport’s check-in counters.
Federal officials said it could take at least another day to open the main highway to Acapulco, which was hit by more than 13 landslides from surrounding hills, and to bring food and relief supplies into the city of more than 800,000 people.
Two of Mexico’s largest airlines, Aeromexico and Interjet, began running flights to and from the still-swamped international airport.
While the Guerrero state government said 40,000 tourists were stuck in Acapulco, the head of the local chamber of business owners said reports from hotels indicated the number could be as high as 60,000.