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Roads and communication lines are destroyed after a hurricane hit Mexico's Acapulco

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A monster Category 5 hurricane has hit the Mexican resort of Acapulco. It came as a surprise to the city of 1 million people. It intensified from a tropical storm to a top-of-the-scale hurricane in just hours. Roads in and out were destroyed. Phone and internet service have been cut off. NPR's Eyder Peralta is on the line from his base in Mexico City. And, Eyder, it sounds like a mess. How much damage has this hurricane caused?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Yeah. I mean, I wish we knew more. We don't know a whole lot because, as you mentioned, internet and phone lines are off. And even the president today said that the government had no way to know the extent of the damage.

I did manage to talk to Raymundo Ceja, who was attending a mining conference in Acapulco, and he brought a satellite terminal with him. And he says they had no idea that things were going to be bad until about 10 p.m. last night. He says the winds picked up suddenly, and the hotel he was staying in - at the hotel he was staying in, most of the windows blew out. Some people ran downstairs and took shelter at one of the conference rooms. Others had to ride out the storm in their bathrooms. And the destruction he describes is breathtaking. No one really had time to prepare properly, so windows weren't boarded up, and he says some of the glass buildings on the bay are destroyed. Let's listen.

RAYMUNDO CEJA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: And what he's saying is that, at this point, no one has cell service or phone service, so family members are desperate for news. But he says that they should have hope. He's seen a lot of destruction but no deaths. A word of caution, though - he is in the part of Acapulco that has very sturdy buildings. Other parts are not that well-built, and there is also a lot of worry about what's happening in the mountainous region right outside of this main drag.

KELLY: And help us understand what may have happened here because, yesterday morning, meteorologists were talking about a tropical storm coming ashore. OK. Instead, they got this major hurricane. What happened?

PERALTA: Meteorologists are saying that this is a stunning and historic event. The National Hurricane Center said this was a nightmare scenario. The system went from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in hours. Just a day ago, the computer models were predicting a weak hurricane - maybe that. And they just got it wrong. Meteorologists say that the warm waters of the Pacific allowed this storm to explode and to catch everyone by surprise. This storm is likely to go down as the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the eastern Pacific. And what's more, Acapulco took a direct hit. That has never happened before since records have been kept.

KELLY: OK. So it's difficult to get communications in and out. What about just actual help? Has aid been able to make it into the city?

PERALTA: Not anything significant. The government here says that it's not safe to fly in, and many of the roads leading into Acapulco have been washed away by the wind and the rain. But the president is vowing a robust response. And military vehicles carrying aid are ready to move once the roads are cleared, but we have not gotten word that that has happened yet.

KELLY: That is NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from his base in Mexico City on a tropical storm that turned into a huge hurricane in just a few hours. Eyder, thank you.

PERALTA: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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