At least 27 people are dead and Acapulco, Mexico, has been left in ruins after Hurricane Otis slammed into the coast Wednesday as a record-breaking Category 5 storm.
Four people are also missing, Mexican Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said during a news conference on Thursday morning.
Officials and military aid finally arrived in Acapulco late Wednesday after their travel was hindered by the same damage they came to help with and assess. What they found was devastating.
Images and video show structures torn apart, including several high-rises. Storm surge and rain left roads inundated, leaving some to wade through several feet of murky water.
“In all of Acapulco there is not a standing [electric] pole,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said during a news conference Thursday. The president said there were more than 1,000 workers working to rebuild the grid so water service can be restored to the area.
More than 500,000 homes and businesses lost power across Mexico’s Guerrero state, power utility CFE said. Service had been restored to 40% of those affected, it added.
A popular tourist destination, about 80% of Acapulco’s hotels were impacted by Otis, according to Guerrero Gov. Evelyn Salgado. Salgado said her office is “supporting tourists” with “30 to 40 trucks that are outside hotels to evacuate (visitors) to other areas free of charge.”
Officials and residents were left with little time to prepare for the severity of the storm because early forecasts significantly underestimated the threat. Otis rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane – the area’s strongest storm on record – in just 12 hours.
Otis weakened quickly once it moved inland. By Wednesday afternoon, it had dissipated over the mountains of southern Mexico. The storm’s heavy rains are forecast to continue impacting the region through Thursday, possibly triggering flash flooding and mudslides, the National Hurricane Center said.
Though the immediate threat has subsided, the region is just beginning the path to recovery.
Around 10,000 members of the military were deployed to the Acapulco area to help the efforts, authorities said.
Mexican National Guard personnel have been working to clear stranded vehicles, downed trees and other debris scattered in the storm, the agency said in a news release.
The Acapulco International Airport has suspended operations as it recovers from the storm, the office of Mexico’s Secretary of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation said in a release. The agency shared images of large piles of debris thrown around the airport.
Otis’ rapid intensification is a symptom of the human-caused climate crisis, scientists say – a scenario that is becoming more frequent.
Scientists have defined rapid intensification as a wind speed increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less, generally requiring significant ocean heat.
More than 90% of warming around the globe over the past 50 years has taken place in the oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, El Niño is growing in the Pacific this year, driving ocean temperatures even higher.
CNN’s Karol Suarez in Mexico City and CNN’s Taylor Ward, Mary Gilbert, Ana Melgar, Claudia Rebaza, Abel Alvarado and Rachel Ramirez contributed to this report.
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