Desperate Acapulco residents demand government aid days after Hurricane Otis

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Groups of angry, desperate residents on Friday began blocking the only two entrances to the hurricane ravaged resort of Acapulco to demand food and water, three days after a Category 5 storm ripped through the city, leaving thousands without access to basic necessities.

As Mexico’s military leaders on Friday listed the aid that was beginning to pour into the city – thousands of packages of basic necessities, water, medical personnel – most area residents had yet to see it.

And while authorities had allowed residents to take what they needed from stores across the city, people in more rural areas on the outskirts of Acapulco said their homes were wrecked and they had no access to food or water.

Otis roared ashore early Wednesday with winds of 165 mph (266 kph) devastating high-rise hotels and humble homes alike in the city of 1 million. It took the entire first day just to open the highway allowing authorities to reach Acapulco and two days to make it possible for planes to land.

On Friday, throngs of desperate villagers from impoverished outlying hamlets like Metlapil lined one of the only two roads leading into the resort, waving signs and desperately holding out arms asking for water, milk, diapers and medicine.

“If we don’t get aid into Metlapil and the other towns, we’re going to block the road,” said resident Esteban Domínguez Bacilio, 19. He explained that they were desperate “because trees fell on our houses, our children need to eat, we don’t have anything” and “no authority has come, nobody, nobody.”

The communities consisted of clusters of a few dozen modest wood and tin-roofed homes set among coconut palms.

Farther down the road, dozens of angry residents of the hamlet of Lucio Cabañas, on the outskirts of Acapulco, carried out the threat of blocking the road.

They pushed past National Guard troops at a toll plaza and shoved traffic barriers across the remaining lanes into the city, holding up signs reading “we need aid.”

“We have gone three days without water, food, electricity, without anything,” said protest leader Juan Andrés Guerrero. “We have been forgotten by everyone.”

The residents briefly blocked all traffic, before National Guard officials convinced them to let cars and emergency vehicles through in exchange for a promise of aid.

One motorist gunned a pickup through the roadblock scattering protesters, some of whom tossed rocks at the truck as it sped away.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has softly asked people to not take advantage of the situation by taking more than they need, promising help is on the way.

Officials said they had established an “air bridge” between Mexico City and Acapulco. Medical personnel were flying into the commercial airport and stranded tourists were flying out. Flights into the local military air base carried 40 tons of aid that the military is in charge of distributing.

The president, who has heaped a range of responsibilities on the military during his administration and who seems to trust few other government institutions and even less the private sector, stressed that all aid would flow through the government, not nongovernmental organizations.

López Obrador said 1,000 government workers would begin a house-by-house census Friday to determine each family’s needs. Some 10,000 “packages” of appliances — refrigerators, stoves, mattresses — had already been collected by the government and were ready to distribute to families who need them, he said.

“Everyone will be supported, count on us,” the president said.