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A day after Hurricane Otis slammed into Acapulco the devastation becomes clear

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The day after a monster Category 5 hurricane slammed into Acapulco, we're now getting a clearer understanding of the devastation - hotels, homes and businesses destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people without power. And information has been hard to get because most of the metropolitan area is still without phone or internet service.

NPR's Eyder Peralta is in the Mexican state of Guerrero as he makes his way to Acapulco. Eyder, it's been more than 24 hours since the hurricane made landfall. How bad's the damage?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Well, look; as you mentioned, I mean, there's still an internet and telephone outage in the whole region, so we haven't seen as much as you might imagine. But slowly, some journalists who were already in Acapulco have started sending out images, and they show extensive destruction. One video shows a hotel, which is right in the middle of the main tourist area in the bay of Acapulco, and there's a car in the lobby. And it's this high-rise building, but every wall, every window, every bed and every piece of furniture has been ripped out of the place, and all that is left is this concrete carcass. Other videos show that the airport has been severely damaged. They show streets underwater and just row after row of destroyed buildings. Officials have also published videos of the roads leading into Acapulco, and they're blocked by downed trees or, in some cases, damaged by landslides.

And all of this tells you that Hurricane Otis was a remarkable storm. It was a top-of-the-scale, Category 5 hurricane that took direct aim at a big city, and that hasn't happened in decades. And this storm is also very likely to go down as the most powerful to have made landfall in the recorded history of Mexico.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned the roads and streets are a mess. So how do people in Acapulco get help?

PERALTA: There's very little help getting in. What we've seen where we are right now in the city of Chilpancingo is a bunch of convoys ready to drive into Acapulco, but when it's safe. You know, yesterday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sort of threw up his hands during a press conference. He said, there's a comms blackout. It's not safe to fly into Acapulco. So we don't really know what's going on, he said.

But around midday, he jumped into an SUV and he drove down here. At one point, the security official told him that he wouldn't be able to get into Acapulco because the road was drowning in mud. He ordered the military to bring in heavy equipment, but his car got stuck in the mud. He had to walk and get into another car. And we are told that he did make it into Acapulco because he wanted to personally oversee the recovery effort.

MARTÍNEZ: And I mentioned how you're hoping to get to Acapulco sometime in the next few hours. What will you be looking for?

PERALTA: Look; I think from what we've already seen, the videos we've seen, we know that this storm was devastating. But there's still a lot we don't know. We don't know how many people have died or even if people have died. We don't know how many buildings or homes have been destroyed. We don't know the state of one of the big hospitals in Acapulco. As Hurricane Otis made landfall, we saw a video of doctors and patients huddling in the hallway, and they were getting pelted by the wind and the rain. And we don't know what happened to them. I think when we weren't getting much information out of Acapulco, there was hope that somehow the city had dodged a bullet, that somehow the nightmare scenario predicted by meteorologists had not come true. But unfortunately, with the few images we're seeing right now, they point to a catastrophe.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from the state of Guerrero in Mexico. Eyder, thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.