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When storms come


WORLD Radio - When storms come

Christians in Mexico help clean up after Hurricane Otis slams Acapulco

A woman walks through a damaged zone in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis in Acapulco, Mexico. Associated Press/Photo by Felix Marquez

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And now: hurricane recovery.

Two weeks ago, on October 25, Hurricane Otis slammed into the southwest coast of Mexico. Otis went from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just a matter of hours. That made preparations and evacuations very difficult.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: One city hit particularly hard was the popular beach resort of Acapulco. Here now is WORLD Latin America correspondent Javier Bolaños with a report.

JAVIER BOLANOS, CORRESPONDENT: In the early hours of October 25th, residents of the world-famous beach resort of Acapulco, Mexico, were awakened by the terrifying roar of Hurricane Otis. The Category 5 storm, swept through with winds reaching 165 miles per hour and left a trail of devastation in its wake. Hotels and homes were flattened. Streets flooded and power lines were knocked down. The heavy flooding triggered landslides and left parts of the State of Guerrero without power or cell phone service. The number of dead and missing after the hurricane passed rose to nearly one hundred.

ALFONSO HERNANDEZ: We thought it was the end because this had never happened before. We were terrified.

Alfonso Hernandez is a local resident. He and his family of four hid together with their two dogs and a chicken in a small closet to weather the storm. Otis blew the roof off the rest of the house.

HERNANDEZ: Our whole house was shaking. We thought our day had come. But thank God we are alive.

When dawn broke, Alfonso's home was severely damaged, but his spirit remained unbroken.

HERNANDEZ: The Lord saved us; I have no doubt about that. We will get out of this situation. 

In the aftermath of Otis, neighbors helped neighbors pick up the pieces. It’s also been an opportunity for Christians to help their neighbors.

Christian humanitarian organizations played a crucial role in providing aid and comfort to the survivors. Operation Blessing's disaster relief team, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was deployed to hard-hit communities to identify the most significant needs.

DIEGO TRAVERSO: Acapulco was ninety percent devastated; people lost everything. No food, nowhere to cook, nowhere to sleep. Basic needs. Water, food, shelter, and medicine.

Diego Traverso, Operation Blessing disaster relief international director, explains the work they have done to help in all these areas. The organization's staff members have worked side by side with members of local churches.

TRAVERSO: We set up water purification plants, distributed water, and hot meals. We started medical brigades. Then, the next stage is to bring stoves for the families. We give them a stove so they can cook their food, along with boxes of goods and supplies.

Otis was unlike any hurricane that has previously hit Mexico. According to experts, Otis was notable for its fast strengthening force, and trajectory. The phenomenon went from a tropical storm to a category five hurricane, the highest on the scale, in just a few hours. Its winds made it the most powerful cyclone to land in the Mexican Pacific since records began, even more than the intense Hurricane Patricia in October 2015.

Scott Hill is an experienced disaster relief expert with more than twenty years of work in Mexico and Latin America. He says he has not seen anything so destructive during his professional career.

SCOTT HILL: There is not a single house in Acapulco or the nearby areas that has not been affected by Hurricane Otis, which has caused an extreme amount of havoc.

With so much storm damage, getting enough clean drinking water for everyone is a greater challenge. Food and medical supplies are in short supply, especially those that need to be refrigerated, like insulin.

From Puebla, a state located in the central-eastern part of the country, Pastor Oscar Moedano organized members of his Breath of Life Church community to bring essential supplies to the coast. The pastor drove for almost five hours in a pickup truck lent by a brother from the church. The car was full of supplies.

OSCAR MOEDANO: All this help was collected from church members, relatives, and friends. We do not receive support from any organization from another country.

Acapulco will need this kind of help for a while. Because while clean up and rebuilding has begun in this city of over a million people, full recovery will take a long time.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Javier Bolaños.

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