1 of 2 | On Sunday, people recover goods from a shopping plaza in an area hit hard by Hurricane Otis in the resort of Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Photo by David Guzman/EPA-EFE
Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The death toll from Hurricane Otis in Mexico's Guerrero state rose to 43 on Sunday, and officials said they expect the number to rise.
The death toll was announced on a day when crews sifted through the rubble left by Otis, a Category 5 storm that slammed Guerrero state along Mexico's southern Pacific coast, including the tourist town of Acapulco, on Oct. 25.
Families began to bury dead loved ones in Acapulco Sunday and continued to search for missing friends and relatives while government crews and volunteers worked to clear debris from the streets that were left cluttered in the storm's aftermath.
They worked along Acapulco's main boulevard Saturday and Acapulco Gov. Evelyn Salgado said on social media that the tourist strip had been largely cleared of debris.
The outskirts, however, remained in shambles.
As many as 80% of hotels were reported to have been damaged, but the national electric company said it restored power to 58% of homes and businesses in the town, and at least 21 tankers were distributing potable water to residents in the outlying damaged areas, according to Jorge Laurel, former president of the Acapulco Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises
More resources were arriving as searchers recovered bodies from Acapulco's harbor and beneath fallen trees and other storm debris.
"It was like living through a two-hour earthquake," Acapulco resident Alejandro Márquez told the Spanish newspaper El País in an interview recounting the hurricane's arrival.
"You see everything breaking into pieces around you, the girls were screaming. The wind looks for an exit point and blows everything through the corridors, sending it flying out," he added.
Many rode out the storm on their fishing and tour boats because Otis was originally categorized as a Tropical Storm, but in a matter of 12 hours churned into a massive, Category 5 hurricane with lethal winds of 165 mph, which gave residents little time to prepare.
The stronger gusts were on par with a 30-mile wide, slow-moving EF3 tornado
Dozens of fishing boats sank. 44-year old Kristian Vera lost her livelihood when three of her vessels were destroyed by Otis.
"That night I was so worried because I live off of this, it's how I feed my kids," Vera said of the damage the storm did to the fishing fleet. "But when I began to feel how strong the wind was, I said, 'Tomorrow I won't have a boat, but God willing, Acapulco will see another day.'"
Vera considered herself fortunate to only have lost her fishing boats when others had lost family members to the storm. She had watched a body pulled from the water earlier in the day, and saw families wandering the town, searching for loved ones.
Because so much of the infrastructure has been damaged, aid has been slow to arrive. The storm's destruction cut off the city of nearly 1 million people the first day, and a lack of communication made it hard to assess the full extent of the damage.
The military presence in the sea-side resort town rose to 15,000 and Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador called on the armed forces to establish checkpoints in the city to respond to people who had resorted to looting in the absence of immediate aid.
Angry protesters began blocking entrances to the town's resorts in protest to a lack of readily available access to aid.
220,000 homes were damaged by the storm, according to the federal civil defense agency. Despite some progress, conditions remain dire for many.
"I am very hungry; we have not eaten," 78-year-old Acapulco resident Maria Luisa Tabares said. "We no longer have food or water, and no one is helping us."
American non profits and other aid groups are mobilizing additional aid, and the White House offered verbal support.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by Hurricane Otis this week in Mexico. Our hearts are with all those impacted by this terrible storm," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday.when