Just two days ago, the beaches were thronged with
picnickers, sunbathers, surfers and holidaymakers. There
were hardly any vacant rooms in hotels that line the
coast of Mexico's most famous resort, Acapulco. However,
the city had a most unwelcome intruder, a monster in the
form of hurricane Pauline, the previous day. It struck
the city with devastating fury, unleashing deadly
torrents that swept people, cars and boulders towards
the sea. The other cities or ports along the Pacific
coast of Mexico were not spared. The latest unconfirmed
reports reveal that more than 100 people had lost their
lives. Twice the number were reported injured. Many more
"We used to experience hurricanes
before, but I don't recall a hurricane ever having
caused such damage," recounted a local resident. "The
hurricane sent torrents of rainwater which raged through
streets yesterday. There were massive traffic jams.
Before long, there was a breakdown in communication.
Worse still, electricity supply was cut off. Many people
were stranded. Emergency calls could not be made. There
was great pandemonium. My brother-in-law and his family
have been missing since the incident. I hope nothing
untoward has happened to them. For the time being, my
family and I had to take refuge in a relief center as
our house was damaged beyond recognition.
This is indeed a very sad day
for the people of Mexico."
I felt sad for them too. I had come to the holiday
resort for a well-earned rest, after covering the
Commonwealth Games as a journalist for an international
magazine. From the hotel room, I could see the havoc and
chaos created by the hurricane Pauline. Floods and
mudslides were rampant and damage was extensive. I was
later told that mudslides from nearby hills, as deep as
two meters in some places, covered nearly the whole city
and the inside of most homes. cars were stacked on top
of each other. Mangled stoplights hung only a meter or
so above ground. even the once-glittering beaches were
covered in tons of mud and debris. Rescuers used shovels
to dig out bodies from the mudslides. Meanwhile, the
homeless were put up in temporary shelters. They had to
endure the hardship of the lack of drinking water and
shortage of food. Many were given only sandwiches all
day. There were not enough blankets and medicine.
Acapulco had been declared a disaster area. The beach
resort had run out of gasoline, drinking water, food,
clothing and many other essentials. The authorities were
appealing for help from all quarters. Meanwhile, army
troops were ordered into the stricken areas to restore
law and order, besides helping in the rescue operations.
So far, more than 4000 troops were drafted in to help.
The Red Cross sent truck convoys with tons of supplies
from Mexico City to Acapulco. The death toll was
expected to double. Up to date, there were, however, no
reports of casualties among the tourists. Many of them
huddled in hotels while a few
stranded ones sought refuge in emergency shelters.
Fuelled by the warm El Nino ocean currents, Pauline
had powered towering waves that pounded the pristine
beaches of Acapulco to a maelstrom of trash and twisted
lounge chairs. All ports were closed. Even air traffic
was suspended. Power was cut off along much of the coast
and telephone services were irregular. By the evening,
the center of Pauline was located about 180 kilometers
inland. The storm was breaking up and was 'weakening'
rapidly. Winds had dropped to below the hurricane level
of 120 kph. However, rain continued to pound the city
for two days, making rescue operations more difficult.
by then, as many as 50,000 people had lost their homes.
Many parts in the outskirts were inaccessible to rescue
"Our immediate concern is the lack of drinking
water," said a spokesman from the municipal council. "We
fear the breakout of epidemics of cholera or hepatitis
as the tropical conditions encourage bacteria to
multiply in the dirty water. it would take weeks for us
to restore communications and electricity and water
supply. Many of the victims have lost their homes