Mexico’s Acapulco hit by garbage pile-up after deadly hurricane

By Troy Merida

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – Residents of Acapulco stunned by a devastating hurricane are now battling with another blight trailing in the storm’s wake: garbage piling up in streets, fanning concern about the spread of disease in the Mexican beach resort.

Hurricane Otis, which roared through Acapulco in the early hours of Oct. 25, was the most powerful storm on record to strike Mexico’s Pacific coast, killing dozens of people and wrecking thousands of homes in the city of nearly 900,000.

Its 165 miles per hour (266 km per hour) winds caused major flooding, destroying furnishings, bedding and household appliances that were dumped outside homes alongside bags of rotting organic waste that have fed putrid smells in the city.

The government has sent in thousands of soldiers to help clean up Acapulco, but residents say rubbish has engulfed some areas so quickly that even traffic is being held up.

“They need to come and get the trash because there’s too much of it,” said Rosa Pacheco from the La Mira neighborhood in the west of the city, where some locals have had to remove rubbish from roads to allow cars to get through.

“There’s almost no way through, because there’s more and more trash every day,” the 46-year-old homemaker added.

Mexico’s Civil Protection authority did not reply to a request for comment, but the government said getting Acapulco cleared up is a top priority.

When questioned about the garbage this week, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities are fumigating the city to prevent disease, and would deal with the problem.

“Everything is going to be cleaned up,” he said.

Food, water and other basic necessities ran low after shops were ransacked and power and communications went down in the wake of Otis, so the government has directed much of its energy toward ensuring residents receive essential supplies.

However, experts on the spread of disease have warned that mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue could begin cropping up if the city allows waste to block drainage and harm the water supply. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

“Let’s say getting drinking water and power up and running again is the top priority, then removal of waste, ensuring drainage is working and sorting out stagnant water,” said Alejandro Macias, a leading Mexican epidemiologist.

If not, he said, conditions could be ripe for yellow fever mosquitoes. “When you’ve got large numbers of yellow fever mosquitoes, dengue outbreaks are only a matter of time.”

(Reporting by Troy Merida; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Bill Berkrot)