ACAPULCO, Mexico -- More rain lashed Mexico's northwest coast on Thursday, prompting evacuations and adding to flash floods that have created chaos across the country and killed at least 97 people.
In the Pacific resort of Acapulco, roads have become raging torrents, stranding some 40,000 tourists, including hundreds of Americans.
Looters have added to the misery, wading through waist-deep water to raid abandoned stores, even as the floods wash away bridges and trigger landslides. The Mexican Navy was drafted in to stop them, telenews reported.
A police helicopter drafted to aid the rescue operation went missing Thursday afternoon. Officials told Mexico’s El Universal newspaper that all contact with the Black Hawk helicopter's crew was lost Thursday afternoon, although they were hopeful that the vicious weather had forced the crew to land and hampered their ability to make radio contact.
Other aircraft were sent in search of Black Hawk, but as the poor weather conditions and fading light forced authorities to suspend the search, which will resume today, the Excelsior newspaper reported.
Emergency services said heavy rains -- tied to Tropical Storm Ingrid and Hurricane Manuel -- were battering the northwestern state of Sinaloa and hundreds of people had been evacuated from coastal communities.
President Enrique Pena Nieto announced 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.
He said efforts would be made to support the families who have lost their homes, El Universal reported Friday, adding in a later tweet that shelters would be available until "nobody needs them."
More than 1 million people have been affected across the country, and 50,000 have been evacuated from their homes.
Transportation hubs, including the main airport in Acacpulco, are at a standstill.
Erika Angulo / NBC News
Manuel Olvera with his dogs Tommy and Mia, who he is trying to get home to Mexico City after Hurricane Manuel left them stranded in Acapulco.
Miami native Alice Cooper and her family were among the many trapped by the storms.
“We have been trying since Saturday to get out of here,” she told TODAY. “But it has been almost impossible.”
Manuel Olvera from Mexico City added that he had been staying in an Acapulco vacation apartment with his wife and their three pets -- two dogs Tommy and Mia and their cat, Apollo.
"I've been coming to the airport for three days, trying to get my wife Marlen on a plane back," he said. "Tuesday was complete chaos, but now its more calm but she still hasn't been able to return home. Even if I could get on a plane, I can't just abandon the pets here."
He added that because of a water shortage in Acapulco, he had been forced to share some bottles with his pets.
"We are getting desperate; we have no more money," another, Alfredo Gonzalez told reporters, late Thursday. "We are signed up for a military flight, but they told us there are thousands and thousands of people ahead of us."
NBC News’ Mark Potter tweeted this picture of the stranded Mexican tourists.
Describing the chaos in the immediate aftermath of the the storm, 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.
Soldiers will continue the search in La Pintada, where according to the Associated Press 68 people from a population of 800 remain missing after a tidal wave of dirt rocks and trees swept through the town’s center Monday.
Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP - Getty Images
Mexican soldiers work on the site of a landslide in La Pintada, where at least 68 people from a population of 800 have died.
"I feel so awful. I lost everything," Amelia Saldana, who lost four sons and her elderly mother told the AP. "I tried to get back to my kids, but I couldn't."
“Yesterday we had to bury my niece Yasmin, her brother Felix and their daughters Jasmin and Lizbeth,” another villager, Romero Nava, told El Universal.
Around 20 bodies have been recovered from the shattered village.
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.
“We remain on high alert,” Culiacan’s civil protection coordinator said Friday, adding that they would work to free the trapped people as soon as they could.
The Los Angeles based international relief agency, Operation USA is also assessing the needs of Acapulco and has called for the public’s help to provide aid.
"There are over 3 million people of Mexican heritage living in LA," Richard Walden the organization’s CEO told NBC Los Angeles, adding the first step in a relief effort like this is usually sending in emergency supplies like generators, flashlights and blankets.
-- The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published September 20 2013, 3:50 AM