Looting hits Acapulco as Mexico storm death toll reaches 80

Looting hits Acapulco as Mexico storm death toll reaches 80

ACAPULCO, Mexico - Looting broke out in the Mexican beach resort of Acapulco on Wednesday as the government struggled to reach tens of thousands of people cut off by flooding that had claimed at least 80 lives.

Stores were ransacked by looters who carried off everything from televisions to Christmas decorations after floodwaters wreaked havoc in the Pacific port, which has experienced some of the worst storm damage to hit Mexico in years.

Tens of thousands of people have been trapped in the aftermath of two tropical storms that hammered vast swathes of Mexico. More than 1 million people have been affected. Acapulco's airport terminal was under water, stranding tourists.

There was no let-up in sight.

One of the tropical storms, Manuel, became a hurricane late on Wednesday, barreling north along Mexico's northwestern coast and threatening more flooding and mudslides.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said 58 people were still missing from Atoyac, a municipality near Acapulco in Guerrero state. Authorities had recovered 18 bodies earlier in the day.

"There was a massive mudslide that practically buried part of a small community of about 400 people," he said. "Sadly, it looks like they were trapped."

Some 288 people had been rescued from the site and another 91 were still waiting to be evacuated, officials said.

Shops were plundered in the city's upscale Acapulco neighborhood of Diamante, home to luxury hotels and plush apartments, where dozens of cars were ruined by muddy brown floodwaters. Marines were posted outside stores to prevent further theft.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't looting from need of food. It was stealing for stealing's sake," said Mariberta Medina, head of a local hoteliers' association. "They even stole Halloween and Christmas decorations and an outboard motor."

Acapulco's tourist trade was already grappling with a surge in drug gang violence, which earned the city the dubious distinction of Mexico's murder capital last year.

Torrential rains were spawned by two tropical storms, Ingrid and Manuel, which converged on Mexico from the Gulf and the Pacific over the weekend, triggering the flash floods.

Rescue workers in the state of Baja California Sur, home to the popular beach resorts of Los Cabos, prepared to evacuate people from flood-prone areas.

Another area of low pressure over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has a 70 per cent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours. It is likely to dump more heavy rains across an area already hit by floods and mudslides.

On Wednesday afternoon, national emergency services said they had registered 80 deaths due to the storms.

Hurricane Manuel could dump up to 15 inches of rain in the state of Sinaloa and cause life-threatening flash-floods, the US National Hurricane Center said.

As the cost of the flooding continued to mount, the Finance Ministry said it had around 12 billion pesos ($925.60 million)available in emergency funding.

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