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Mexico reels from1-2 punch of twin storms

Massive mudslide could drive death toll of 80 even higher

September 19, 2013

The toll from devastating twin storms climbed to 80 as isolated areas reported deaths and damage to the outside world, and Mexican officials said that a massive landslide in the mountains north of the resort of Acapulco could drive the number of confirmed dead even higher. “It’s very likely that these 58 missing people lost their live,” said Angel Aguirre, governor of the storm-battered Guerrero state.

Mexico’s federal Civil Protection coordinator, Luis Felipe Puente, said 35,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Mayor Ediberto Tabares of the township of Atoyac told Milenio television that 18 bodies had been recovered and possibly many more remained buried in the remote mountain village. Atoyac, a largely rural township about 42 miles west of Acapulco, is accessible only by a highway broken multiples times by landslides and flooding.

Mexico was hit by the one-two punch of twin storms over the weekend, and the storm that soaked Acapulco on Sunday, Manuel, re-formed into a tropical storm Wednesday, threatening to bring more flooding to the country’s northern coast.

Mexico’s transportation secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities cleared the parallel highways that connect Acapulco to Mexico City and the rest of the world. The roads were blocked by dozens of mudslides, rocks and collapsed tunnels.

Many of the city’s poor slogged through waist-high water desperate for food, drinking water and other basics.

So isolated is Acapulco that cargo ships have been contracted to supply food to the city by sea. Those in more remote areas have been relying on air drops for their food.

Two of Mexico’s largest airlines were running about two flights an hour from Acapulco’s still-flooded international airport, with priority for those with tickets, the elderly and families with young children.

In Acapulco’s upscale Diamond Zone, the military commandeered a commercial center for tourists trying to get one of the military or commercial flights that remained the only way out of the city.

Mexico’s federal transportation secretary said that 5,300 people had been flown out of the city on 49 flights by Wednesday afternoon, a fraction of the 40,000 to 60,000 tourists estimated to be stranded in the city.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and it was centered about 95 miles southeast of Los Mochis. It is a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel’s first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico’s eastern coast.

Meteorologists said Mexico was experiencing “unusual” weather as it was hit by two major storms- Manuel and Ingrid- within the space of 24 hours- something which had not happened in Mexico since 1958.

“It seems like Mexico can’t get a break from the rain this year,” said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

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