Monday, March 4, 2024

‘Air bridge’ between Acapulco and Mexico City to help stranded tourists

Flights are leaving Acapulco for the first time since Hurricane Otis slammed into the Pacific coast resort city early Wednesday.

An Aeroméxico flight departed the Acapulco International Airport on Friday morning, transporting stranded tourists to Mexico City.

Footage release earlier this week showed Acapulco’s air traffic control tower as damaged and inoperative. (SICT)

Operations were suspended at the airport on Wednesday after Otis damaged its terminal building and control power and knocked out power and communication services.

Ricardo Dueñas, CEO of the Centro Norte Airport Group, which operates Acapulco airport, confirmed the resumption of operations on Friday morning.

“This morning we began an air bridge between Acapulco and Mexico City. We’ve already gotten the first group of stranded passengers out safely,” he said.

“Rescue operations will continue throughout the day,” Dueñas added.

Aeroméxico, Viva Aerobus and Volaris will all offer free flights from Acapulco to Mexico City starting Friday, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transport. Additional humanitarian flights are expected to depart over the weekend.

Aeroméxico said on the X social media site just after midday that it was operating “humanitarian aid flights” for people affected by Hurricane Otis.

“If you need transport from Acapulco to Mexico City, get in touch with our call center on 55 5133 4000, press * and we’ll happily look after you,” the airline said.

Aéroméxico emphasized that its flights out of Acapulco are humanitarian rather than commercial and noted that its priority is to offer transport to pregnant women, children, people who are sick or disabled and the elderly.

Authorities have shared images of the extensive damage to Acapulco airport. (Gobierno de México)

Commercial flights into Acapulco airport are not expected to resume before next Tuesday at the earliest.

The Mexican military is also establishing an air bridge between Mexico City and Acapulco.

Two Air Force planes carrying supplies will operate between the Santa Lucía Air Force Base – located at the Felipe Ángeles International Airport north of the capital – and the Pie de la Cuesta Air Force Base, located just north of Acapulco.

The military will distribute provisions to families in Acapulco, where there is a shortage of many goods due to the looting of stores and supermarkets during the past two days. Emergency aid is also reaching the city by road.

Early photos from Acapulco airport showed extensive damage to parked aircraft as well as terminal and air traffic control facilities. (Aviation Mex/X)

The armed forces are also involved in cleanup efforts in Acapulco and other parts of Guerrero affected by Otis, the most powerful hurricane to have ever made landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

The newspaper Reforma reported Friday morning that water service and electricity supply hadn’t been reestablished in large parts of the municipality of Acapulco. It also said there is a lack of gasoline in the city and that the public transport system is “paralyzed.”

“We’re isolated, without food, without electricity or water. No one has passed by our homes yet, we need water,” a resident of the Postal neighborhood told Reforma.

People seeking to leave what has been described as an “apocalyptic” situation in Acapulco initially had few options, with the airport closed and the Autopista del Sol highway to central Mexico blocked in many sections.

Some tourists reportedly traveled north to fly out of the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport, while on Thursday others boarded Mexico City-bound buses provided by the state government.

With the Autopista del Sol having reopened, buses departed Acapulco and arrived in Mexico City some 13 hours later, according to Foro TV. The journey took much longer than usual due to damage on the highway.

With reports from Reforma and El Financiero


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