By Troy Mérida
ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – Residents of Acapulco, stunned by a devastating hurricane, are now grappling with another scourge lingering in the storm’s wake: trash piling up in the streets, stoking concerns about the spread of disease in the Mexican resort.
Hurricane Otis, which swept through Acapulco in the early hours of October 25, was the most powerful storm ever recorded on Mexico’s Pacific coast, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes in this city of nearly 900 000 inhabitants.
Its 166 mph winds caused significant flooding, destroying furniture, bedding and appliances that were thrown outside homes alongside bags of rotting organic waste that fueled the putrid odors of the city.
The government has sent thousands of troops to help clean up Acapulco, but residents say trash has engulfed some areas so quickly that even traffic is blocked.
“They have to come and collect the trash because there is too much,” said Rosa Pacheco of the La Mira neighborhood in the west of the city, where some residents have had to remove trash from the roads to allow traffic to pass. cars.
“There is almost no traffic, because there is more and more waste every day,” adds the 46-year-old housewife.
Mexico’s Civil Protection did not respond to a request for comment, but the government said cleaning up Acapulco was a top priority.
Asked this week about the waste, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities were fumigating the city to prevent disease and would tackle the problem.
“Everything will be cleaned up,” he said.
Food, water and other essentials became scarce after stores were ransacked and power and communications outages following the Otis attack. The government has therefore devoted much of its energy to ensuring that residents receive essential supplies.
However, experts on the spread of disease have warned that mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever, could begin to appear if the city allows waste to block drainage and harm the water supply. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.
“Let’s say that restoring clean water and electricity is the top priority, then eliminating waste, making drainage work properly and sorting out stagnant water,” said Alejandro Macias, a prominent Mexican epidemiologist.
Otherwise, he said, conditions could be ripe for yellow fever mosquitoes. “When you have 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)