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Hurricane Otis leaves nearly 100 people dead or missing in Mexico, local government says

The catastrophic toll of Hurricane Otis is becoming more apparent in the days since it hit the Pacific beachfront city of Acapulco, Mexico, last week. Otis made landfall as a ferocious Category 5 on Oct. 25. Officials now say the number of those dead or missing from the storm has increased significantly, to nearly 100.

In a news release Monday, the governor of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, said at least 45 people were killed and 47 are still missing. Sixteen of the bodies that have been recovered have been returned to their families, officials said, adding that three of those included in the death toll are foreign residents from the U.S., Canada and U.K.

Hurricane Otis stunned expertswhen its wind speeds increased by 115 mph in a single day before making landfall, intensifying at the second-fastest recorded rate in modern times, according to the National Hurricane Center. NOAA said Otis “was the strongest hurricane in the Eastern Pacific to make landfall in the satellite era.”

“There are no hurricanes on record even close to this intensity for this part of Mexico,” the hurricane center warned on Oct. 24 as the storm approached, describing it as a “nightmare scenario.”

Meteorologists and climate scientists say warming oceans and the impact of climate change mean we’re likely to see more such storm behavior in the future.

“We would not see as strong of hurricanes if we didn’t have the warm ocean and Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico,” Weather Channel meteorologist Richard Knabb told CBS News last week. “That is the fuel.”

Residents who survived the storm have been left reeling in the aftermath.

“I thought I was going to die,” Rumualda Hernandez told Reuters, in Spanish. She said described how she and her husband watched the floodwaters rise around their home. “…We trembled. I was shaking … and my husband told me to calm down. ‘It will pass,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it will stay like this. The important thing is that we are alive that we are together.'”

Now, she said, they don’t have clean water and their house is “full of mud.”

“We are left with nothing,” she said. “Everything is damaged.”

Other Acapulco described the scale of the damage.

“It’s like the apocalypse,” John, a restaurant owner who did not provide his last name, told Reuters. “…I hope Acapulco can recover as quickly as possible because it seems that 90% of the buildings are damaged. … So many businesses and hotels are damaged.”

“People were left with nothing,” local teacher Jesus Diaz also told Reuters. “…The hurricane took everything.”

Mexico officials said Monday that water and fuel are being delivered to residents and that they are working to restore electricity.

“They will not lack work and food, water, the basics,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a press release. “…and very soon, very soon, we are going to restore the electrical service.”

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