Economy

Devastation in Acapulco: Hurricane Otis

As Acapulco comes to terms with the destruction wrought by Hurricane Otis, we find out how some companies are helping to pick up the pieces.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Jessica Rodriguez Leon

It has been one month since Hurricane Otis made landfall on Mexico’s storied southern holiday resort, Acapulco.

The once sought-after celebrity holiday destination—frequented by icons like Elvis Presley, former US President John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe—is now facing up to the devastating aftermath of natural disaster.

In the middle of the night on October 25, the category 5 hurricane hit the coast, breaking all records for violence and wind speed of any such weather system in this part of Mexico.

TBY’s team in Mexico was in Acapulco to cover the XXXV International Mining Convention.

They shared their experience, highlighting the rapid and unexpected development of the superstorm. Authorities had issued warnings in the day ahead of the worsening situation. However for many this was too late. The storm had been forecast to land at 5am, but was at a late stage re-estimated for landing at 1am as a far more powerful hurricane.

The night of the storm’s arrival restaurants and shopping malls were operating normally, with tourists taken by surprise around midnight as the hurricane made its presence known.

The TBY team realised the severity of the situation and sought shelter just in time at Palacio Mundo Imperial, one of the newest hotels in the area.

The team experienced 48 hours in the natural disaster zone and saw first-hand the seriousness of the natural disaster as well as its terrifying effects on the Punta Diamante area.

Dozens of Acapulco families and tourists with suitcases and luggage in hand roamed the streets in search of help after their shelters were destroyed.

Nightfall the day after the hurricane was particularly frightening, as it appeared authority had not been reestablished by the army and police. An atmosphere of desperation fell on the city as groups of individuals looted local stores and supermarkets, and electricity and other utilities remained cut off.

The TBY team spent 48 hours in the disaster zone before returning home safely.

Despite the destruction that occurred, wildly disparate estimates of the cost of repairing the city have clouded the fallout from events.

Initial government appraisals of the cost of cleaning up stood at around MXN60 billion, while Fitch Ratings suggest a figure of about MXN270 billion as a more appropriate figure.

Construction industry specialists have labelled this as the most significant reconstruction project in Mexican history, according to this piece by www.milenio.com

For the tourist industry, a priority will be fixing up Punta Diamante—a center of luxury hotels and apartments—but poorer communities and villages in the surrounding area were completely destroyed.

Mariana Jimenez, Managing Director of BAMX Food Bank, told us that their Natural Disasters Response Plan (ADN) was immediately active in supporting those affected by the hurricane, but that this help will need to be expanded to the long term given the depth of the devastation. “Red BAMX and the solidarity of Mexican society will help the affected communities in Guerrero overcome this emergency and begin rebuilding their lives.”

Reinforcing this point, Alberto de la Fuente, President of CEEG, noted that “the reconstruction of Acapulco will take time. Our commitment is to continue working hand-in-hand with all three levels of government, the rest of the private sector, and civil society to together rebuild a city and a community in need.”

The present death toll of 50 fails to give the full picture of the hurricane’s effects, but is a stark reminder of the deadly effects of such storms. “We regret the pain of those who have been affected, especially those who have lost a loved one. We stand with you,” stated Maria Ariza, CEO of the BIVA Stock Exchange. “Together, we will ensure that Acapulco rises with strength.”