Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Families say authorities have stopped looking for Hurricane Otis victims

Families of more than 20 sailors still missing after Hurricane Otis are protesting that authorities appear to have stopped the search for their loved ones.

Around 50 relatives and friends of the missing blocked the Costera Miguel Alemán Avenue outside Acapulco’s Icacos Naval Base on Saturday morning. They demanded that Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado and President López Obrador give more support to the Navy to continue the search and extend it to the Oaxaca coast.

Family members of the missing accuse the government of prematurely abandoning the search at sea and demand that the Navy extend the search area to Oaxaca. (Carlos Carbajal/Cuartoscuro)

“The Navy no longer wants to look for our relatives, my father and people from other ships are still missing,” Laura Castro, daughter of yacht captain Felipe Castro, said in an interview with Aristegui Noticias. “There are more deaths than the 49 that the government says, but they want to hide them so as not to give real figures.”

Other protesters said that the exact number of people missing at sea is unknown, but is believed to be between 22 and 30, and could be more than 60. They added that they do not know which authority to approach for accurate information, more than three weeks after the Category 5 hurricane devastated Acapulco on Oct. 25. Most of the missing were crew members who cared for luxury yachts moored in Acapulco Bay.

“We ask the owners of the boats to support us in locating our relatives,” said Jesús Lopez Sarabi, husband of one of the workers who was quoted by Aristegui Noticias. “The authorities have told us that they are carrying out tours with boats, submarines and divers on the coast, but we don’t know if the divers are going to the bottom.”

He added that local sailors were “moving faster than the authorities,” having already located several bodies themselves.

Families are frustrated by a lack of transparency regarding the Navy’s efforts to recover bodies from the over 300 sunken vessels in Acapulco Bay. (Carlos Carbajal/Cuartoscuro)

The latest official death toll from Hurricane Otis is 49 (plus 26 missing), but the local news agency Quadratín has claimed that the true deaths could be as high as 350, based on information from local funeral parlors, and the number of people still reported missing. An Acapulco business leader claimed in late October that up to 120 sailors were dead or missing, but only 11 of their bodies have been recovered so far.

President López Obrador emphatically denies that authorities have suppressed the Acapulco death count, and insists that the Navy is continuing to support the local population and search for the missing. A statement by the Navy on Nov. 14 said that 310 sunken vessels have been located and 72 of them recovered, but gave no figures about the missing sailors.

After blocking traffic for around an hour on Saturday, representatives of the protesting families were received by Navy authorities, but it is unclear if any agreement was reached.

With reports from La Jornada Maya, Aristegui Noticias and Proceso

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