No fun in Acapulco: Smashed buildings, overturned boats and broken lives in wake of Hurricane Otis

Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

ACAPULCO, Mexico — Acapulco's iconic cliff divers are ready to resume daily shows, but there are no spectators to witness their death-defying leaps from the craggy heights of La Quebrada into the churning sea below.

"We live off tourism, and there are no tourists now," lamented Brandon Palacios, one of the divers.

Likewise, Tomás Mayo, a familiar figure in a cowboy hat and boots who has strummed his guitar for decades along Acapulco's beaches, has no audience for his serenades. "The beaches are empty," he noted.

Others face more profound troubles. Relatives of four crew members of the sunken yacht Litos still hold out hope that their missing loved ones survived.

"We want the navy and the government to keep doing everything they can to continue the search," said Mei-li Chew Irra, whose husband, Ulises Díaz Salgado, was the captain. "We cannot give up."

This is the grim reality of Acapulco more than two weeks after Hurricane Otis — packing Category 5 winds of more than 165 miles an hour — ripped through the fabled Pacific resort and wrought unprecedented devastation, leaving at least 48 dead and 31 still listed as missing, and exacting up to $15 billion in damage.


Acapulco's glitziest hotels and condominiums are mostly windowless hulks. The one-time hideaway of Johnny ("Tarzan") Weissmuller and Hollywood pals like John Wayne is a pile of rubble. Overturned yachts and smashed fishing vessels bob in picturesque bays.

Residents queue beneath a blazing sun for handouts of food and water, as soldiers with assault weapons make their rounds along a once-rocking coastal boulevard now lined with tattered palms, downed power lines and piles of fetid trash.

Acapulco's normally verdant tropical slopes have assumed a dull, brownish patina: The cyclone uprooted stands of palms and stripped others to the bark.

"I never thought I would live to see Acapulco in such a state," said Baltazar Quintera, 53, who earned his living at a now-shuttered beach kiosk specializing in chile-spiked beer concoctions — just as his mother had once hawked hand-woven robes to beach denizens.


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