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Hurricane Otis leaves Acapulco, the popular Mexican tourist destination, in ruins

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Mexican resort town of Acapulco is coming to terms with the massive destruction left by Hurricane Otis.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The storm crashed into Mexico's shore as a Category 5 hurricane. It flooded streets, ripped roofs off of homes and disrupted communication across Acapulco. The government has counted at least 27 people dead so far.

FADEL: NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us from Acapulco, where power is still out. And so we may have some audio issues. Eyder, where are you right now, and what are you seeing?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So I'm sitting in a parking lot right now in an apartment complex where some nice person has let us stay in their apartment, and that's completely destroyed. All the windows are blown out. All the furniture has been destroyed. The roof has caved. And we've just made a little corner for ourselves. And this is unspeakable devastation.

You know, Acapulco is mythical in Mexico. It's built along this half-moon bay with cliffs on either side and a huge stretch of hotels in high-rise buildings. And all of that is totally, utterly destroyed. Sometimes you look up at the buildings and you can see straight through them, like everything inside was sucked out by the wind. And then in the hills above Acapulco, the rivers broke their banks, and they flooded everything.

People I spoke to said that when the storm hit, the water in their homes came up to their chests, and they have spent two days now shoveling mud out of their homes. And as we moved through the neighborhoods, it seemed that everyone wanted to talk. It was like they wanted to scream to the world that they are in pain. Let's listen to Antonia Hernandez (ph).

ANTONIA HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish, crying).

PERALTA: And what she's saying there is that during the storm, her house was chaos. Everything was tossed around. Everything was full of water. And all that water took everything from her. Everything she had saved for, everything she had worked so hard for was gone in an instant.

FADEL: You can hear that pain in her voice. How are people getting by?

PERALTA: I mean, in any way that they can. You know, all of this has led to desperation and opportunism. Last night, as we were trying to find a place to rest, the streets were full of people. It seemed that every store in Acapulco was being looted. We saw people coming out of Home Depot with paint, out of Sam's Clubs with patio furniture. But we also saw a lot of people taking food and essential items.

I met one young man who had been going from pharmacy to pharmacy, trying to find medicine that his sick aunt needed. Another lady I met hid her face in her hands when she spoke to me, and she told me that this situation had turned her into a thief. Her young son had taken some ice and some water from the supermarket, and she said that the worst part was that she had money, but none of the stores here are open.

FADEL: Well, is there any type of government response? What are authorities doing?

PERALTA: I mean, they're here, but this is a huge catastrophe. And the response so far, it seems inadequate. We've seen the military trying to cut huge downed trees with machetes. We've seen maybe just a handful of heavy machinery, but what we haven't seen at all is aid. We haven't seen trucks bringing water or food. And in some of these neighborhoods, we've talked to people who are drinking juice because they've run out of water. So things are really bad right now here. And if they don't get better soon, it could get much worse here.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Acapulco, Mexico. Thank you, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE PEOPLE'S "CAREFULLY") 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.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.