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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible