Environment: Killer floods cause havoc in Acapulco

El Nino, the climatic phenomenon that distorts weather the world over, is reaping a bitter harvest in Mexico. Floods in Acapulco have killed over a hundred.

She disappeared as quickly as she had come but left Mexicans and foreign tourists in a state of shock. No one will forget the day Pauline came to Acapulco.

As the hurricane winds died to an eerie whisper yesterday, residents of the popular Pacific resort faced the gruesome task of trying to find the bodies of missing relatives among the hundreds of corpses recovered after Thursday's disaster. Holding handkerchiefs over their noses, they walked between rows of deformed, flood-bloated bodies, including several children in pyjamas or nightdresses, laid out on the concrete floor of the Acapulco municipal morgue.

Mexican officials confirmed at least 122 dead, mostly in Acapulco. Also badly hit were the rest of the state of Guerrero and the neighbouring state of Oaxaca. More than 250 were injured and dozens were still missing. One report spoke of three German tourists missing from a nudist beach resort at Zipolite.

Meteorologists warned that although Pauline had faded from a Category 3 hurricane to a mere tropical depression yesterday over southern Mexico, she could stage a revival farther north, closer to the US border, over the weekend.

Experts at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the suddenness and unexpected fury of Pauline, as well as the speed with which the hurricane dissipated, appeared to be the result of the so-called "El Nino" (The Christ Child) weather phenomenon. Under the phenomenon, warm Pacific currents off the west coast of South America are pushing farther north than usual, changing weather patterns along the coast.

"It's a normal hurricane season in the eastern Pacific. We've had 16 named storms, eight of which developed into hurricanes," said Frank Lepore, a National Hurricane Centre spokesman. "But typically, if they start off Mexico, they head west-north-west out into the open ocean. With the warmer waters, they are now tending to go north and north-east on to land, including the south-western United States."

That is what happened last month when Hurricane Linda - the most intense hurricane ever recorded, while it was over the eastern Pacific - caused widespread flooding in south-west Arizona. Hurricane Nora also dumped unprecedented rainfalls on Arizona.

El Nino has also been blamed for recent floods in Peru, off whose coast the phenomenon originates, and Chile, where tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and floodwaters have brought a worrying upsurge in the virus-spreading rat population.

The Hurricane Centre in Miami expressed surprise that El Nino, which had not been expected to reveal major effects until around Christmas, had shown itself so early. They said the phenomenon could be followed by the reverse effect - dubbed La Nina (The Little Girl) - as the warm currents that had moved north shift back southwards. That could bring serious drought to Mexico and the southern US, they said.

In Acapulco, a partying and gambling mecca for the Hollywood stars of the Forties and Fifties, and more recently a haven for Mexican politicians and millionaires, the effects of Hurricane Pauline served as a reminder of Mexico's wealth gap. The American-style high-rise chain hotels along the beach emerged unscathed but for eroded beaches and flooded cellars, while the shanty towns above, on the 3,000-ft ridge behind the city, were devastated by landslides.

Mexican peasants from inland Guerrero or other states flock to Acapulco and build simple homes while looking for work as waiters or maids, or other jobs serving those who sip pina coladas in the hotels or night-clubs below.

Most of the dead were swept away, many while still in their wooden homes, as driving rains turned normally dry river beds into raging torrents and mudslides. Boulders the size of cars were swept downhill, crushing homes. Horrified neighbours watched as one stone house plunged downhill as though it were a raft negotiating rapids. Bodies could be seen protruding from mud, arms outstretched as though they had been desperately trying to grab something solid.

"We were asleep when the water came smashing through our living-room. We all got out alive except for my sister," Rafael Diaz Servin, a 35-year- old waiter, told a Reuters reporter as he stood over his sister Laura, covered by a sheet of blue plastic, in the morgue.

Cars and bodies littered Acapulco Bay, ever known as the world's cleanest zone. The city had been trying to clean up the bay, traditionally polluted by direct sewage from the city, but most tourists preferred to stick to their seafront hotel swimming pools. In the newer tourist resort of Huatulco, the Sheraton hotel appeared to have lost its entire beach yesterday. And in Puerto Escondido, where surfers from around the world flock to ride a breaker known as "The Tube," beachfront restaurants and bars were swept away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee