by Staff Writers
Acapulco, Mexico (AFP) Sept 22, 2013
Mexico looked Saturday to the Herculean task of rebuilding after a rare double onslaught of storms, with at least 170 people feared dead in the path of destruction.
The death toll in the tragedy soared, with President Enrique Pena Nieto saying another 68 people were feared dead in a landslide in the southern village of La Pintada in Guerrero state. An earlier count put the number of dead at 101.
"The sheer volume of earth that has virtually buried more than 40 homes there means (it would be difficult) to find anybody alive" in La Pintada, the president said during a press conference with members of his cabinet in Guerrero, the state hardest hit by the twin storms that have since dissipated.
"As of today, there is virtually no hope that we can find anyone alive" in La Pintada, added the president who visited the devastated mountain town.
A police rescue helicopter missing since Thursday also was found to have crashed, with no survivors, the Interior Ministry said. Five policemen were killed, the ministry said in a statement.
Press reports earlier had said the aircraft, which had been set to deliver relief goods to and evacuate people from La Pintada, was carrying three.
Pena Nieto cancelled plans to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly next week and will instead stay in the disaster area to help coordinate relief efforts over the weekend.
An estimated 200,000 people were left homeless and nearly 60,000 were evacuated because of the flooding and landslides in the wake of the storms, Manuel on the west coast and Ingrid from the east, that socked this country of 112 million.
Officials also began tallying the massive economic damage in a country where the growth forecast already was lowered drastically in August. Road repairs alone will cost about $3 billion, the transport ministry said.
The tropical storms have hammered the country since September 14, damaging tens of thousands of homes, flooding cities and washing out roads.
Mexico had not been hit simultaneously by two powerful storms like this since 1958, the National Weather Service said.
Guerrero state was the hardest hit, with its Pacific resort of Acapulco left cut off after the two roads to Mexico City were covered by landslides on September 15. Tourists were stranded for five days.
Thousands finally packed into cars and buses on Friday after authorities reopened road links to the capital.
Around 62,000 tourists have managed to leave the city, about half by road and half in special airlift planes.
The airport -- where the terminal flooded last Saturday -- should be practically back to normal on Sunday, Communications and Transport Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said.
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told radio station Formula that the damage from the storms was "beyond calculation."
In Guerrero, one of Mexico's poorest states, it will be particularly hard to tally the toll because the terrain is mountainous with many small villages that are hard to reach, he said.
Early official estimates are that the storms damaged 1.5 million homes in 22 of Mexico's 32 states, along with 72 roads or highways.
In Guerrero alone, the preliminary damage estimate is $380 million, according to state Governor Angel Aguirre.
Half the picturesque resort city of Acapulco was flooded, while rising waters brought out crocodiles. Looters ransacked stores.
But Acapulco's airport, which had been swamped, "is almost back to normal service," Ruiz Esparza said at midday Saturday.
People continued to work with shovels and pickaxes in La Pintada, a coffee-growing village west of Acapulco.
The mud collapsed on the village of 400 people during independence day celebrations on Monday, swallowing homes, a school and church before crashing into the river.
Soldiers and civil protection workers, many wearing surgical masks, removed pieces of broken homes and chopped up fallen trees with machetes.
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