By Michael Weissenstein
The Associated Press
ACAPULCO, Mexico — The toll from devastating twin storms climbed to 80 on Wednesday as isolated areas reported deaths and damage to the outside world, and Mexican officials said that a massive landslide in the mountains north of Acapulco could drive the number of confirmed dead even higher.
The storm that devastated the Pacific resort over the weekend regained strength Wednesday and became Hurricane Manuel, taking a route that could see it make landfall on Mexico’s northwestern coast overnight. It would be a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch of Manuel’s first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico’s eastern coast.
Sinaloa state civil protection authorities said some areas were already flooding in the towns of Escuinapa, El Rosario and Mazatlan. At least 60 families were evacuated from the fishing village of Yameto, in the Sinaloan town of Navolato, authorities said. The affected area is a sparsely populated stretch of fishing villages.
Outside Acapulco, federal authorities reached the cutoff village of La Pintada by helicopter and airlifted out 35 residents, four of whom were seriously injured in the slide, said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. Officials have not yet seen any bodies, he said, despite reports from people in the area that at least 15 people had been killed.
“It doesn’t look good, based on the photos we have in our possession,” Osorio Chong said, while noting that “up to this point, we do not have any (confirmed) as dead in the landslide.” Osorio Chong told local media that “this is a very powerful landslide; very big ... You can see that it hit a lot of houses.”
Mayor Ediberto Tabares of the township of Atoyac told Milenio television late Wednesday that 15 bodies had been recovered and possibly many more remained buried in the remote mountain village. Tabares told the same television station earlier in the day that 18 bodies had been found.
Atoyac, a largely rural township west of Acapulco, is accessible only by a highway broken multiple times by landslides and flooding.
Ricardo de la Cruz, a spokesman for the federal Department of Civil Protection, said the death toll had risen to 80 from 60 earlier in the day. The 80 total does not include the 15 reported deaths in Atoyac.