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Airlift launched for tourists in Acapulco

18 September 2013, 11:15

Acapulco - Mexican authorities launched an airlift to evacuate tens of thousands of tourists stranded amid floods in the resort of Acapulco on Tuesday, following a pair of deadly major storms.

Two airlines, Aeromexico and Interjet, announced on Twitter that they had sent the first of several flights, with officials estimating that 40 000 Mexican and foreign beachgoers are marooned in hotels.

The Pacific city's airport and two main highways have been closed since the tropical storms, Ingrid and Manuel, began to pound the country's east and west coasts over the weekend.

The weather systems triggered heavy rains, floods and landslides that have left at least 38 people dead in several states, according to federal officials. State and local officials have reported 10 more deaths.

The southwestern state of Guerrero endured four days of non-stop rain that has flooded more than half of Acapulco, a city of 680 000 people, according to municipal officials.

Authorities have used boats, amphibious vehicles and helicopters to rescue people who took refuge on upper floors or roofs of their homes after waters rose as high as 3m in some neighbourhoods.

The rising waters even brought out crocodiles that complicated the rescue missions.

"All land routes are closed and for the moment it is difficult to open the commercial airport of Acapulco," national civil protection coordinator Luis Felipe Puente told MVS radio.

The terminal will remain closed due to the flooding on the road to the airport but the aircraft will be able to use the runway, civil aviation director Alejandro Argudin told Televisa television.

The city's Imperial World Forum, a concert theatre, will be used to facilitate the tourists' exit, he said.

Authorities hope to open one lane of a federal road linking Mexico City to Acapulco later on Tuesday.

Manuel struck the Pacific coast on Sunday while Ingrid weakened from hurricane to tropical storm strength as it made landfall on the northeastern coast on Monday.

It was the first time since 1958 that two storms hit the country almost at the same time. Two-thirds of the country were affected this time, officials said. Both systems have since dissipated.

Although the storms have dissipated, authorities have warned that an emergency remains in place in Guerrero and the eastern state of Veracruz.

Around 50 towns were affected in Guerrero, with some 238 000 people seeing various levels of damage to their homes, officials said.

In Veracruz, the storms damaged 18 bridges, triggered landslides that fell on dozens of roads and affected some 20 000 homes, state officials said.



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