More rain poured over Mexico's northwest coast Thursday, prompting evacuations and creating a massive landslide -- as the deadly weather was blamed for at least 97 deaths across the country.
At least 97 people have died from flooding and mudslides since Hurricane Manuel lashed the Pacific coast over the weekend and Hurricane Ingrid hit the Gulf coast on Monday. Manuel, now a Category 1 storm, slammed the northern flank of the country just before 10 a.m. local time Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
President Enrique Pena Nieto told media he was cancelling a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week to focus on leading the relief efforts in Mexico.
"The rainfall in the last few days has been the most intense registered in history over an extended area in Mexico," Pena Nieto said, according to Reuters.
More than 1 million people have been affected across the country, and 50,000 have been evacuated from their homes.
Storms wrecked roads, destroyed bridges and triggered landslides that buried homes and their occupants.
Looters waded through waist-high water in Acapulco to ransack stores, making off with everything from televisions to holiday decorations, according to Reuters. Upscale retailers were plundered in the posh neighborhood of Diamante. Marines were posted outside stores to stamp out further theft.
Dozens were missing Thursday after a landslide tore through La Pintada, a coffee-growing village of roughly 600 residents in the mountains just two hours north of Acapulco, said Angel Aguirre, governor of the battered state of Guerrero. And south of the village, powerful floodwaters ravaged hotels and stores in Acapulco.
British teacher Ed Smith, who managed to flee Acapulco via a military plane, told NBC News partner ITV News that dead animals washed up after the deluge.
“The amount of debris that washed up – palm trees, objects, a dead horse, a dead armadillo – it was just relentless, really,” Smith said. “The hotel wasn’t designed to cope with such destructive weather conditions. It just rained and rained.”
Video footage showed a crocodile slithering through the muddy, mucky streets of Acapulco in front of a shocked crowd.
At least 40,000 tourists in Acapulco — including many Americans, who have flocked to the sunny vacation spot in the state of Guerrero for decades — were stranded after the airport terminal was flooded.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t looting from need of food. It was stealing for stealing’s sake,” Mariberta Medina, the head of a local hoteliers’ association, told Reuters. “They even stole Halloween and Christmas decorations and an outboard motor.”
With the twin roads from capital Mexico City to Acapulco blocked by flooding, tourists have seen the weekend turn into a desperate struggle to get weeping children, elderly parents and even a few bedraggled dogs back home.
Mexico's government was already struggling to reach thousands of people trapped by flooding that had killed at least 97 people by late Wednesday. The devastating effects of Thursday’s landslide will likely only complicate rescue efforts.
And Interior Minister Osorio Chong warned that more landslides are possible as police wade into the bloody muck and try to evacuate the village’s remaining 45 residents.
Claudio Vargas / AFP - Getty Images
Tourists rest while waiting for a chance to board an outbound Mexican Air Force plane at the Pie de La Cuesta military base in Acapulco on Wednesday.
"It was like an explosion burst open the mountain, and in seconds the earth came down and the houses appeared to run, while others were buried," local woman Amelia Saldana Gregorio told Mexico’s El Universal newspaper. She said she lost four children and her mother in the horrific landslide.
Manuel, which made landfall in northern Mexico, is expected to churn 75 mph winds and drop between 5 and 10 inches of rain over the state of Sinaloa, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Acapulco and Guadalajara will likely suffer thunderstorms in the coming days, but they will probably be spared the worst of Hurricane Manuel, said Tom Moore, the coordinating meteorologist at The Weather Channel. He added that places directly in line with Manuel could suffer more than 10 inches of rain over the next 40 hours.
“The area near the Rio Verde River will get very bad flooding,” he said. “The system will weaken to a tropical depression and it will dump very heavy rain, double digit rain.”
Moore added that he expected the heavily populated resort towns further south would likely miss out on the worst of it.
“There will be some periods of thunderstorms, so they’re not going to be totally rainless, so the story there is what’s happened, not what’s going to happen.”
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said an area of low pressure over the oil-producing southern Gulf of Mexico had a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours and could dump heavy rains on already flooded areas.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published September 19 2013, 7:45 PM