Survivors told of “a horrible roar” of floodwaters that swept away whole families and workers dug into muck 10 feet deep in a hunt for the victims of Hurricane Pauline’s rampage. The bodies, some found in pajamas, piled up in morgues Friday as the death toll rose to at least 141.
More than 6,500 army troops were ordered into areas ravaged by the hurricane. Aid groups appealed for drinking water, medicine, food, blankets and other supplies for the thousands of Mexicans up and down the coast who have been left homeless.
Hundreds of military doctors and nurses joined local health workers in treating survivors in Acapulco. The Pacific Coast resort was caught off-guard Thursday when the hurricane skirted the city but unleashed rains that set off widespread flash floods that swept sleeping people, cars, even giant boulders down hills toward the city’s famed beaches. Waves up to 30 feet tall gouged the beaches themselves.
The dead included at least 113 people in Acapulco, said Oscar Pina Camara, a health official for Guerrero state. Authorities said the toll was rounded out by nine other deaths in Guerrero and 19 in neighboring Oaxaca state, where the hurricane began its march up hundreds of miles of seaboard on Wednesday. No foreign tourists were reported killed or injured.
More rain sent a foot of muddy floodwaters into low-lying streets of Acapulco on Friday, but with none of the ferocity of the previous day. Many feared that concrete culverts filled with 10 feet of muck, debris and tree trunks could hold more of the bodies claimed by Pauline, which weakened to a tropical depression Friday as it broke apart inland up the coast.
“There will probably be more deaths,” President Ernesto Zedillo acknowledged from Berlin, where he cut short a state visit to fly home Friday.