Scores of people are dead and tens of thousands of tourists — including many Americans — were stranded Thursday after storm-whipped flooding and a massive landslide turned the tourist destination of Acapulco into a veritable swamp plagued by looters and even a crocodile.
As many as 80 people have died from flooding and mudslides since Hurricane Manuel lashed the Pacific coast over the weekend and Hurricane Ingrid hit the Gulf coast on Monday. Manuel, now a Category 1 storm, slammed the northern flank of the country just before 10 a.m. local time Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Looters waded through waist-high water in Acapulco to ransack stores, making off with everything from televisions to holiday decorations, according to Reuters. Upscale retailers were plundered in the posh neighborhood of Diamante. Marines were posted outside stores to stamp out further theft.
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Some 58 people were missing Thursday after a landslide tore through La Pintada, a coffee-growing village of roughly 600 residents in the mountains just two hours north of Acapulco, said Angel Aguirre, governor of the battered state of Guerrero. And south of the village, powerful floodwaters ravaged hotels and stores in Acapulco.
British teacher Ed Smith, who managed to flee Acapulco via a military plane, told NBC News partner ITV News that dead animals washed up after the deluge.
“The amount of debris that washed up – palm trees, objects, a dead horse, a dead armadillo – it was just relentless, really,” Smith said. “The hotel wasn’t designed to cope with such destructive weather conditions. It just rained and rained.”
Video footage showed a crocodile slithering through the muddy, mucky streets of Acapulco in front of a shocked crowd.
At least 40,000 tourists in Acapulco — including many Americans, who have flocked to the sunny vacation spot in the state of Guerrero for decades — were stranded after the airport terminal was flooded.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t looting from need of food. It was stealing for stealing’s sake,” Mariberta Medina, the head of a local hoteliers’ association, told Reuters. “They even stole Halloween and Christmas decorations and an outboard motor.”
With the twin roads from capital Mexico City to Acapulco blocked by flooding, tourists have seen the weekend turn into a desperate struggle to get weeping children, elderly parents and even a few bedraggled dogs back home.
Mexico's government was already struggling to reach thousands of people trapped by flooding that had killed at least 80 people by late Wednesday. The devastating effects of Thursday’s landslide will likely only complicate rescue efforts.
And Interior Minister Osorio Chong warned that more landslides are possible as police wade into the bloody muck and try to evacuate the village’s remaining 45 residents.
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