MEXICO CITY — Storm-battered Mexico braced Thursday for more damage from the drenching Pacific system known as Manuel, which inflicted its second strike on the country in less than five days, this time at hurricane strength.
Manuel and another system that has swamped Mexico’s Gulf Coast, Ingrid, are blamed for at least 81 deaths so far this week and have washed out roads, ruined crops and severed communications in wide swaths of the country.
After delivering its first strike as a tropical storm Sunday in southwestern Mexico, Manuel returned to the Pacific and drifted northward, reorganizing and gathering new momentum. It made landfall again Thursday morning as a Category 1 hurricane and was flooding fishing villages along the Gulf of California, also called the Sea of Cortez, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, Mexican authorities said.
Nationwide, Mexican officials said 22 of the country’s 31 states have sustained damage from Manuel and Ingrid.
Hardest-hit was the southwestern coastal state of Guerrero, including the resort area of Acapulco, where Manuel’s landfall Sunday left tens of thousands of tourists stranded and triggered devastating mudslides in nearby communities.
The Mexican government has mobilized troops and organized relief flights to Acapulco to deliver supplies and evacuate tourists, but large portions of the city remain flooded, including the airport terminal. Television footage has shown looters ransacking a local Costco and a washed-up crocodile thrashing around on one city street.
The death toll from the storms is expected to rise as authorities reach remote mountain towns cut off by mudslides. In La Pintada, a tiny village outside Acapulco, at least 58 people remained missing after a hillside collapsed, swamping homes with gushing mud.
“It was as if the mountain exploded,” said Amelia Saldaña Gregorio, telling Mexico’s El Universal newspaper that her four children and mother were entombed in the sludge. “It came crashing down in seconds, carrying away houses and burying others.”
The government has yet to release estimates of the overall damage caused by Manuel and Ingrid, but Treasury officials said they had set aside $1 billion in relief funds. The government released aerial photos Wednesday of several roadways and bridges washed out by the storms, including portions of major arteries such as the “Highway of the Sun” linking Acapulco to Mexico City.
Yet another storm system was brewing Thursday near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and will be dubbed “Jerry” if it reaches tropical storm strength.