At midnight on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, I lived an experience that marked me for life. I was trapped in room 372 of the Hotel Pierre of Grupo Mundo Imperial, during the worst hurricane recorded in the history of Acapulco, Guerrero. The powerful Otis shattered the window in my room, knocked down lamps, electrical installations, thermoses, stationery, wooden furniture and made the bathroom in which I took refuge shake. Several days have passed since the unusual tropical cyclone and I still remember the terrible screams in the hotel hallways and the ringing in my ears that began once the windows broke and the hurricane entered my room, with sustained winds of up to 270 km. /h that left branches, mud, sand and a flood in the bedroom and toilet. I could say that I still feel afraid; I still have that feeling of anguish and sorrow for the thousands of families who are still immersed in that nightmare.
I arrived on Sunday, October 22, to the coast to participate in a seminar and cover the International Mining Convention organized by the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico AC (AIMMGM). More than 30 Mexican and Venezuelan journalists met; About ten thousand people attended the event, around 200 were from the Lagunera region.
Minutes after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, the inauguration of the second most important mining event in Latin America began, at the Mundo Imperial Convention Center. The inaugural declaration was made by the secretary of the government of Guerrero, Ludwig Marcial Reynoso Núñez. He apologized to Governor Evelyn Salgado Pineda. She could not attend because she was coordinating preventive actions against the impact of “Otis” which in less than 12 hours went from being a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane, the maximum on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It broke the historical record of intensification in Mexico, which was 24 hours, observed in Hurricane Patricia in 2015, according to the National Center for Disaster Prevention.
When the event ended, I immediately sent the information note to the editorial office of El Siglo de Torreón and until 9:00 p.m., there were no indications of evacuation from the venue. Even authorities and miners took a tour of an Expo.
The group of journalists went to the “La Isla” shopping plaza, to a dinner invited by Industrias Peñoles at the “La Vicenta” restaurant. At 9:39 p.m., I captured the first video where you could already see the wind shaking the trees; The main topic at dinner was the hurricane because moments before, Conagua had warned that it would impact coastal lands between 4 and 6 in the morning on Wednesday.
At 10:52 p.m., the rain had already intensified so we decided to leave the place, thinking that the earlier we arrived at the hotel, the more time we would have to prepare and take shelter in a safe place.
YOU WILL RUN WHEN WE TELL YOU
We divided into two groups. I left on the first trip aboard a tourist van at 10:57 p.m. We drove fifteen minutes and when we arrived at the hotel, there was no longer any electricity and the wind was stronger. Concerned, we requested information at the reception but the only thing they told us was to stay in our rooms and that they would notify us if there was a need to move us to a hostel that they had set up right there. Drenched, three journalists, holding each other’s shoulders, ran to our rooms. We crossed the pool, the restaurant, and two buildings while trying to avoid branches and blades that were already starting to fly. Out of nerves, we went up one more floor and there I lost contact with them. I hurriedly descended from the room to the third floor but paused when I saw a mirror fall. Two hotel waiters intercepted me and told me “get behind us and you’ll run when we tell you.” That’s how it went. We ran to room 372, with wet clothes and a backpack that carried a laptop, my cell phone, and a wallet. One of the workers opened my room and told me to close the curtains on the window because they had not had time to protect the three windows with adhesive tape, in the shape of an nervous breakdown.
At 11:47 p.m., the power came back on, but it was only for a few minutes. I exchanged a couple of messages with my mother. “They are saying on the news that a very strong hurricane will arrive in Acapulco, be very ready daughter,” she wrote to me. “Don’t worry, go to sleep, I’m fine, we’ll write tomorrow, I’ll let you know anything, I love you more,” I answered while I hurriedly changed my clothes and grabbed bottled water and some toilet paper to put in my backpack.
OTIS, TOOK US BY SURPRISE
At 11:50 p.m., a colleague who had stayed in the second group wrote in a message that they were coming on the bus and that it was impossible to get to the hotel. “We are attached to the hotel but we can’t get off the bus, but so they know where we are.” Immediately afterwards, messages began to circulate on the cell phones of those who were in their rooms. “In room 209 our door and windows were broken”, “go into the bathroom, it’s the safest place”, “put your valuables in and stay away from the windows. Don’t worry, this will pass soon, stay where you sit.” safer”, “my window was already scrubbed, the latch expired and I don’t go close to close it because it sounds stupid”, and “we had to put the furniture back, the window broke”.
At 12:30 a.m., she was locked in the bathroom and Otis had increased his intensity and the power was no longer there. Eleven minutes passed and the three panes of the window broke, one after another. The sound of the hurricane was deafening, so much so that I took a towel to cover my ears while holding the bathroom door, which was pushed with great force. “My glass has already broken, help, I’m locked in the bathroom, the door is also threatening, 372, sorry, I’m flooding,” I wrote on the phone but the message was no longer sent. The internet signal had gone down and there was no electricity. My horror story doesn’t change much from that of the other guests.
I heard screams, cries, the exploding of glass in the other rooms, the fall of sheets and trees, while the rainwater continued to leak through the main door and into the toilet. After two hours of stalking, destruction and exhaustion, two people from the hotel entered the third floor hallway. I knew because they loudly asked if we were okay. I immediately opened the door and at almost 3 in the morning they took me to a shelter where I began to meet with my other classmates. The rain did not stop so I arrived at the shelter with wet clothes and shoes. It was a sleepless night and when dawn broke the ordeal continued. The tourist gem was destroyed, collapsed. We were still without electricity, with drinking water cut off and without an internet connection. There were knocked down light poles and overturned vehicles, rooms that were left exposed to the elements, fallen ceilings, broken walls, trashed video surveillance systems, fallen palms, hundreds of pieces of glass scattered in the streets as well as mattresses, televisions, fans and sheets.
Around 2:00 p.m., we realized that in the Princess Hotel, which was destroyed, there was an electricity plant and a satellite internet antenna. With many obstacles caused by the force of nature and with the instinct of survival, we arrived, and finally we were able to communicate with our families. Then we returned to the hotel where they offered us rationed food on trays and Styrofoam cups. We use the coolers in the rooms to carry rainwater for toilets and personal hygiene. After 30 hours of Otis passing, mosquitoes proliferated, temperatures in the shelter increased, and food and bottled water began to become scarce. No local or federal authority had reached the hotel zone until that time.
It was on Thursday afternoon that we were able to leave the disaster zone. We did it walking and carrying our luggage along Simón Bolívar Street, which resembled a swamp. When we arrived at the Boulevard des Nations, the panorama was even more discouraging. There was looting of convenience stores and shopping centers, tire theft and assaults. A woman tried to physically attack me when she realized that she was recording the acts of robbery. She wanted to grab me by her neck, but a Zacatecas journalist intervened. “Don’t worry, we’re going to get out of here,” she told him. The woman walked away from her with a shopping cart full of items but without looking away from us. At that moment, we got into a vehicle and it was thanks to Industrias Peñoles that we were able to leave the port of Acapulco, by land, bound for Mexico City. I arrived with bruises on my legs, with wet sneakers, with pain in the soles of my feet and with emotional discomfort. A week after the tragedy and having resisted Otis’s onslaught, I can only thank God for this second chance at life, without failing to mention the importance of community resilience and respect for nature, our common home.