ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) -- The Mexican government searched for victims and continued assessing the damage Saturday from the one-two punch of storms Manuel and Ingrid, as a missing Federal Police helicopter working on the rescue was found crashed. All aboard died.
Meanwhile, in Mexico City, a wave of critics charged the government with making natural disasters worse because of poor planning and lack of a prevention strategy.
“Governments aren’t responsible for the occurrence of severe weather, but they are for the prevention of the effects,” wrote Mexico’s nonprofit Center of Investigation for Development in an online editorial criticizing a federal program to improve infrastructure and relocate communities out of dangerous flood zones. “The National Water Program had good intentions but its execution was at best poor.”
President Enrique Pena Nieto was en route to affected areas Saturday, said Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre via his Twitter account.
Mexico soldiers were still digging through the mud Saturday in La Pintada, the scene of the single-greatest tragedy wreaked by the two storms that simultaneously pounded both of Mexico’s coasts last weekend, spawning huge floods and landslides across hundreds of miles of coastal and inland areas. So far, 101 have died, not including those in the helicopter or another 68 still missing in La Pintada.
The helicopter, lost since Thursday, was located early Saturday morning. Government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez says the number of victims is still being determined and could be between three and five people.
The helicopter was returning from the remote mountain coffee-growing village northwest of Acapulco when authorities lost contact with it. Weather conditions there initially hampered rescue efforts and flights into the area.
The Mexican government late Friday gave a list of damages from Ingrid and Manuel, which later gained hurricane force and rolled into the northern state of Sinaloa on Thursday morning.
The storms affected 24 of Mexico’s 31 states and 371 municipalities, which are the equivalent of counties. More than 58,000 people were evacuated, with 43,000 still remaining in shelters as of late Friday. The government had received nearly 700 tons of aid so far from nearly 1,000 donation centers set up around the country. Seventy-two highways were damaged, including main arteries that left Acapulco isolated for days, as thousands of tourists awaited airlifts out of the inundated resort city.
The highway reopened Friday, albeit with many detours skirting stretches damaged by flooding and landslides. As of Saturday, all of the stranded tourists had been able to leave Acapulco.
The investigations center, known as CIDAC for its initials in Spanish, said Mexico had not been hit by two simultaneous storms since 1958.
The editorial said that while rescue efforts and aid are indeed humanitarian, they also provide good images for opportunistic politicians.
Prevention “like that in developed countries, designed to avoid the negative impact of natural events on people, don’t seem to sell advertising or create grateful constituents,” read the editorial.
Associated Press writer Katherine Corcoran reported from Mexico City.