Mexico to give interest subsidies, but no loans, to Acapulco hotels destroyed by Hurricane Otis


MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government said Wednesday it will assume half of the interest rates on bank loans to help rebuild the 377 hotels destroyed or heavily damaged after Hurricane Otis slammed into the resort city last week.

But President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will not provide government loans to the hotels, the backbone of the local economy.

The hotels currently have no cash flow — and face months of work to repair windows and walls blown out by the Category 5 hurricane — so it is unclear how many private banks would be willing to lend them money.

López Obrador announced a package of $3.4 billion in aid for the resort. Much of that will be spent on payments of between $2,000 and $3,000 per damaged home, on temporary job programs and free electricity for residents for several months.

He also said his government would build dozens of barracks to station National Guard troops in Acapulco, despite the fact Guard officers were already present in the port, but were unable to prevent widespread ransacking of stores following the hurricane.

López Obrador also promised about 250,000 packages of appliances and weekly food packages for each family, saying local chain stores had agreed to help — despite the fact that almost every large grocery and department store in the resort was ransacked and heavily damaged.

Officials have bounced back and forth on the death toll from Otis, citing figures ranging from 46 to 48.

López Obrador has claimed his opponents are trying to inflate the toll to damage him politically, but with hundreds of families still awaiting word from loved ones, the death toll was likely to keep rising.

In previous hurricanes in Acapulco, most of the dead were swept away by flooding on land. But with Otis, a significant number appear to have died at sea, after dozens of boats, yachts and cruise boats sank. Residents have said that some crews had either chosen or been ordered to stay aboard to guard their craft.

The Mexican navy said Tuesday that four more boats have been located on the bottom of Acapulco bay, bringing to 33 the number of vessels that apparently sank when Hurricane Otis slammed into the resort city last week.

Navy Secretary José Rafael Ojeda said a ship with a crane arrived Tuesday, and that search teams hope to start lifting the boats to the surface soon to check for victims. But with just one crane working, lifting the boats to the surface could take weeks, raising the prospect of a long, agonizing wait for relatives.

Relatives of missing crew members expressed frustration, saying they had received little help or support from authorities.

Yezmin Andrade’s sister, Abigail Andrade Rodríguez, was one of four crew members aboard the Litos, a 94-foot (29-meter), twin-motor yacht based in Puerto Marques, just south of Acapulco’s main bay, on the night the hurricane hit.

No one has heard from her, or any of the other crew members, in a week.

Around midnight, the yacht appears to have sent out an SOS after being blown or fleeing across the main bay. There was no official word that the Litos was among the 33 boats confirmed sunk.

Andrade said investigators haven’t contacted her. “I’m doing things on my own,” she said.

Andrade said families of missing crew members are organizing their own search on La Roqueta, a small island in Acapulco bay that has no permanent population, on the hopes that some of the boat crews may have swam or floated on rafts to the island, or spots further down the coast.

Acapulco is known for both its abundance of expensive yachts and its cheap tour boats that carry tourists around the bay.

A local business chamber leader put the number of missing or dead at sea as high as 120, but there has been no official confirmation of that.

The federal civil defense agency tallied 220,000 homes that were damaged by the hurricane, which blew out the windows and walls of some high-rise hotels and ripped the tin roofs off thousands of homes.


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