The residents of Acapulco, stunned by a devastating hurricane, are now fighting another plague left behind by the storm: the garbage accumulated in the streets, which is fueling concerns about the spread of diseases in the emblematic Mexican tourist center.
Hurricane Otis, which hit Acapulco in the early hours of October 25, was the most powerful storm recorded on the Mexican Pacific coast, killing dozens of people and destroying thousands of homes in this city of almost 900,000 inhabitants.
Its winds of 266 kilometers per hour caused major flooding, destroyed furniture, household goods and appliances that were thrown out of houses along with bags of decomposing organic waste that have spread putrid odors in the city.
The government has sent thousands of soldiers to help clean up Acapulco, but residents say garbage has invaded some areas so quickly that even traffic has been hampered.
“Let them come and remove the garbage because there is too much,” said Rosa Pacheco, from the La Mira neighborhood, west of the city, where some residents have had to remove waste from the roads to allow cars to pass.
“There is almost no passage because the garbage accumulates more every day,” added the 46-year-old housewife.
Civil Protection did not respond to a request for comment, but the Government says that cleaning up Acapulco is an absolute priority.
When asked about garbage this week, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that authorities are fumigating the city to prevent diseases and that they would take care of the problem.
“Everything is going to be cleaned,” he said.
Food, water and other essentials were in short supply after stores were looted and power and communications were disrupted in the wake of Otis, so the government has devoted much of its energy to ensuring that people receive supplies essential.
However, disease spread experts are concerned that mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue could begin to appear if the city allows waste to damage drainage and water supplies. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.
“Let’s say that in hierarchy, the first thing is the restoration of drinking water and electrical service and secondly the removal of debris, the operation of drainage and the resolution of stagnant water,” said Alejandro Macías, one of the main Mexican epidemiologists.
Otherwise, conditions could be conducive to yellow fever mosquitoes: “When there are ‘aedes aegipty’ in large numbers, dengue outbreaks are only a matter of time,” he stressed. (Reporting by Troy Mérida; writing by Dave Graham; edited in Spanish by Adriana Barrera)