By Jose Cortes and Josue Decavele
ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) -Mexico’s government said it would unveil a rescue plan on Wednesday for the hurricane-stricken beach resort of Acapulco, where the search for survivors continues and thousands of people struggled to get food and water.
Hurricane Otis last week hit Acapulco with winds of 165 miles per hour (266 km per hour), flooding the city, flipping roofs from homes and businesses, submerging vehicles, and severing communications as well as road and air connections.
More than 100 people are dead or missing, and the cost of damage could be as high as $15 billion, according to storm experts. Mexico has sent thousands of armed forces members to keep order and help distribute tons of food and supplies.
“Most of all we want a roof, a roof and assistance,” said Jose Luis Martinez, speaking in the skeletal wreckage of his roofless dwelling in Acapulco’s impoverished Puesta del Sol neighborhood. “And water and food, and provisions to eat.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would present a plan to revive Acapulco on Wednesday after the finance ministry announced tax breaks for businesses in affected areas to spur new investment in the city of almost 900,000 people.
Some residents have been reduced to washing in local waterways, and hundreds of them formed lines to receive food handouts at a government-backed community kitchen on Tuesday.
The effectiveness of government relief efforts has become heavily politicized, and social media have teemed with unverified claims that concerned Mexicans trying to deliver aid to Acapulco have been impeded by military officials.
The government strongly denies this.
Still, a judge last week backed a complaint by attorney Abraham Moises Cano requesting the National Guard and military allow the free passage of humanitarian aid to Acapulco.
The legal challenge, which Cano shared on his X account, said authorities have confiscated personal property and supplies en route to Acapulco, which was hit by widespread looting after the hurricane tore through last Wednesday.
Lopez Obrador had judicial authorities in his sights as he mulled how Mexico could help Acapulco, saying funds could be drawn from 15 billion pesos ($831 million) in trusts held for the judiciary which the Senate canceled last week.
“The 15 billion (pesos) should go the victims in Acapulco,” he told reporters during a regular press conference.
The move to scrap the trusts had already been politically contentious, as it followed a longstanding feud between the president and judicial authorities, which Lopez Obrador argues are corrupt, hostile to his government, and overpaid.
Acapulco residents are still searching for missing loved ones since the Category 5 hurricane hit with unexpected ferocity, far exceeding meteorologists’ initial forecasts.
Mexican civil protection authorities have so far confirmed the deaths of 48 people in Acapulco and nearby areas.
The city’s home state of Guerrero depends heavily on tourism, putting pressure on battered hotels to reopen quickly. Guerrero is also one of Mexico’s poorest states, and has long been ravaged by gang violence, complicating the recovery.
Guerrero’s government said on Tuesday that the number of missing people had risen to 58.
Lopez Obrador, who has rebuffed criticism of the government’s response, had said he expected electricity to be fully restored in Acapulco by Tuesday.
State power utility CFE said on Tuesday morning one in four users in Guerrero hit by Otis was still without power.
Still, the government will not need to amend Mexico’s 2024 budget to cope with helping Acapulco, a Mexican official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
($1 = 18.0499 Mexican pesos)
(Reporting by Jose Cortes and Josue Decavele; Additional reporting by Casssandra Garrison Stefanie Eschenbacher and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Alistair Bell, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)