People stand on the edge of a collapsed bridge as they wait to ferry their goods via a boat across the Papagayos River, south of Acapulco, near Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. / AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) The toll from devastating twin storms climbed to 80 on Wednesday as isolated areas reported deaths and damage to the outside world, and Mexican officials said that a massive landslide in the mountains north of Acapulco could drive the number of confirmed dead even higher.
The storm that caused havoc in the Pacific resort, Manuel, regained strength over water and became a hurricane Wednesday, taking a route that could see it make landfall on Mexico's western coast later in the night. It would be a third blow to a country still reeling from the one-two punch over the weekend of Manuel's first landfall and Hurricane Ingrid on Mexico's eastern coast.
Outside Acapulco, federal authorities reached the cutoff village of La Pintada by helicopter and airlifted out 35 residents, four of whom were seriously injured in the slide, said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. Officials have not yet seen any bodies, he said, despite reports from people in the area that at least 18 people had been killed.
"It doesn't look good, based on the photos we have in our possession," Osorio Chong said, while noting that "up to this point, we do not have any (confirmed) as dead in the landslide." Osorio Chong told local media that "this is a very powerful landslide, very big ... You can see that it hit a lot of houses."
Mayor Edilberto Tabares of the township of Atoyac told Milenio television that 18 bodies had been recovered and possibly many more remained buried in the remote mountain village. Atoyac, a largely rural township about 42 miles (70 kilometers) west of Acapulco, is accessible only by a highway broken multiple times by landslides and flooding.
Ricardo de la Cruz, a spokesman for the federal Department of Civil Protection, said the death toll had risen to 80 from 60 earlier in the day, although he did not provide details of the reports that drove it up.
In Acapulco, three days of Biblical rain and leaden skies evaporated into broiling late-summer sunshine that roasted thousands of furious tourists trying vainly to escape the city, and hundreds of thousands of residents returning to homes devastated by reeking tides of brown floodwater.
The depth of the destruction wreaked by Manuel, which first hit Mexico as a tropical storm, was highlighted when the transportation secretary said it would be Friday at the earliest before authorities cleared the parallel highways that connect this bayside resort to Mexico City and the rest of the world. Hundreds of residents of Acapulco's poor outlying areas slogged through waist-high water to pound on the closed shutters of a looted Costco, desperate for food, drinking water and other basics.
Many paused and fished in the murky waters for anything of value piling waterlogged clothing and empty aluminum cans into plastic bags.
"If we can't work, we have to come and get something to eat," said 60-year-old fisherman Anastasio Barrera, as he stood with his wife outside the store. "The city government isn't doing anything for us, and neither is the state government."
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening that Manuel's eyewall was now nearing the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Forecasters said the deadly storm had top sustained winds of 75 mph (115 kph) and was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of the western Mexican community of Altata.
The center also says Manuel is moving north at 5 mph (7 kph) and a hurricane warning is in effect from La Cruz to Topolobampo in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.