A Mexican Navy helicopter flies over the home of Estela Sandoval Diaz which was destroyed by the Hurricane Otis. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) The Associated Press

Mexico - Two hours of terror and now years of devastation for Acapulco's poor in Hurricane Otis aftermath

Hurricane Otis shredded Acapulco, Mexico, last week and tore apart the lives of hundreds of thousands of people

ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Estela Sandoval Díaz was huddled in her tiny concrete bathroom, sure these were the final moments of her life, when Hurricane Otis ripped off her tin roof.

With it went clothing, savings, furniture, photos and 33 years of the life Sandoval built piece-by-piece on the forgotten fringes of Acapulco, Mexico.

Sandoval was among hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were torn apart when the fastest intensifying hurricane on record in the Eastern Pacific shredded the coastal city of 1 million, leaving at least 45 dead. The Category 5 hurricane damaged nearly all of Acapulco's homes, left bodies bobbing along the coastline and much of the city foraging for food.

While authorities were hard at work restoring order in Acapulco's tourist center — cutting through trees in front of high-rise hotels and restoring power — the city's poorest, like Sandoval, said they felt abandoned. She and hundreds of thousands others lived two hours of terror last week, and now face years of work to repair their already precarious lives.


Read also

Hurricane Otis leaves nearly 100 people dead or missing in Mexico, local government says, CBS News / October 31, 2023

Hurricane Otis Leaves Acapulco Reeling in its Aftermath, Recommend Magazine / October 31, 2023

People in Mexico are trying to pick up the pieces from Hurricane Otis, NPR / October 31, 2023

In pictures: Acapulco struggles to recover as Hurricane Otis death toll rises, FRANCE 24 English / October 30, 2023

Otis teaches a terrifying lesson in rapid hurricane intensification, Royal Meteorological Society / October 30, 2023

Insurable losses from Hurricane Otis could reach up to $15 billion, Business Insurance / October 30, 2023

Mexico planned to renew cat bond even before Otis triggered it, News Blog by Steve Evans / October 30, 2023


“The government doesn’t even know we exist,” Sandoval said. “They’ve only ever taken care of the resort areas, the pretty places of Acapulco. They’ve always forgotten us.”

It’s a sentiment that has long simmered in the city but has grown as many accuse the government of leaving them to fend for themselves after Otis hit.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has deployed more than 10,000 troops to deal with the hurricane’s aftermath along with 1,000 government workers to determine needs. He said 10,000 “packages” of appliances and other necessities — refrigerators, stoves, mattresses — had been collected and were ready to distribute to families in need.

“Everyone will be supported, count on us,” he pledged last week.

But few of the dozens of people The Associated Press spoke to said they'd received aid from the government, nor were they expecting much.

Sandoval and her family have spent decades living a stone's throw away from the beachside high-rises and luxury stores lining Acapulco’s chicest district, the Diamond Zone.

Living in a two-room concrete house with no potable water and unpaved roads, that glamor never reached their doorstep. Referred to by locals as the “sunken neighborhood,” Viverista is always hit hardest by natural disasters.

Three years ago, Sandoval beamed with pride when, after 25 years of saving, she put a foot of concrete on the floor and a new metal roof on her house so it wouldn’t flood every time it rained. But that seemed a lifetime away Friday as Sandoval and her children picked through their soggy belongings.

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