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Mexican storm victim: 'The government ignores us'

From Shasta Darlington, CNN
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 20, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: In one town, 68 people remain missing after a mudslide
  • NEW: Residents complain that government aid has been slow
  • NEW: Officials say help is on the way after "historic" rains
  • Storms have killed at least 97 people in Mexico

Lea este artículo en espanol en CNNMexico.com.

Renacimiento, Mexico (CNN) -- As raging floodwaters swept away half of his timber shack, Saturnino Medina climbed to the roof.

He pointed Thursday to the place where river waters broke through a container wall and washed away his kitchen.

Medina and his family have almost nothing left now, after the wind and rain of Manuel hit the town of Renacimiento, located about 20 km northeast of the resort city of Acapulco.

Days after the storm made landfall as a tropical depression in the Mexican state of Guerrero, thousands of tourists are still trapped in Acapulco and thousands of families are struggling to recover.

Medina and his family were left to eat eggs and tortillas donated by neighbors and drink expired cartons of juice they found in a nearby trash dumpster. So far, he said, they haven't gotten any government aid.

"The truth is, I don't even know what to tell you," he said. "The government ignores us. They help everyone else, but they've forgotten about Renacimiento."

A Red Cross rescuer zip lines across a river at the site of a collapsed bridge near the town of Tierra Colorada, Mexico, on Saturday, September 21. At one point this week, Mexico seemed to be pummeled from all sides by then-Hurricane Manuel and the remnants of Hurricane Ingrid. A Red Cross rescuer zip lines across a river at the site of a collapsed bridge near the town of Tierra Colorada, Mexico, on Saturday, September 21. At one point this week, Mexico seemed to be pummeled from all sides by then-Hurricane Manuel and the remnants of Hurricane Ingrid.
Hurricane Manuel hits Mexico
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Storms slam Mexico Storms slam Mexico
Mexico reeling from deadly storms
Mexico struggles with massive flooding

The town is one of many across Mexico ravaged by multiple storms that have been battering the country.

Federal officials say at least 97 people were killed across Mexico by Manuel, which plowed into the country's Pacific coast, and Ingrid, which hit the Gulf coast.

Rescue efforts continued throughout the country Thursday. In one Guerrero town ravaged by a mudslide, authorities said 68 people remained unaccounted for.

An aerial survey revealed many more mudslides, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said, and there are additional reports of disappearances that authorities have not yet confirmed.

In Renacimiento, one of the hardest-hit areas, Alma Rojano said neck-high floodwaters washed by her home.

Days after the storm hit, bulldozers and cleanup crews finally arrived in the town on Thursday.

In a press conference Thursday night, federal officials said that climate conditions had made it difficult to reach more remote parts of the country, but pledged that government aid was on the way.

"Right now we are facing a truly extraordinary condition," President Enrique Peña Nieto said, noting that the extent of the heavy rains over such a large part of the country had reached "historic" proportions.

Tourists stranded

Ana Benavides, a stranded American tourist in nearby Acapulco, tried to leave by car.

She didn't get more than a mile before blocked roads stopped her.

Then she waited for 12 hours in a line along with thousands of other stuck tourists hoping to get on a flight out. While more than 10,000 tourists had been evacuated in this way, there was no guarantee that Benavides would be one of the lucky ones to board a plane.

Some people, in their desperation, slept in the line.

Benavides kept her situation in perspective: "You know, we're a lot better off than a lot of people," she said.

Manuel left about 40,000 tourists stranded in Acapulco. As of Thursday, more than 10,000 were able to board military or commercial flights out of the storm-ravaged area.

Authorities said they hope to reopen the highway leading out of Acapulco on Friday, which would allow for thousands more to leave and quicken the flow of food and other aid to the area.

The worst of a deadly storm has passed, but tension and confusion remain as the extent of the damage continued to emerge.

The weather in Acapulco has improved. And the storm -- Manuel -- weakened Thursday from a hurricane to a tropical storm. But it was still expected to produce 5 to 10 inches of rain over the northern state of Sinaloa, with some places getting as much as 15 inches, forecasters said.

Ingrid batters Gulf coast

In addition to Manuel, those living on Mexico's Gulf Coast were recovering from the remnants of Hurricane Ingrid, and in the south, a storm system over the Yucatan Peninsula was likely to become a tropical cyclone.

On the Gulf Coast, in the state of Veracruz, Ingrid and its remnants claimed 11 lives. About 32,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Residents there sent photos to CNN showing streets that looked like rivers, with the tops of cars sticking out of the floodwaters.

Another major concern in the Gulf Coast was that the new storm system brewing in the south could bring more rain to the already saturated area.

More than 1 million residents across Mexico have been affected in some way by the storms, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters.

18 stranded in New Mexico 'ghost town' amid flooding

In violence-ravaged state, another devastating blow

In Guerrero state, the storms were yet another devastating blow to a part of the country already suffering from some of the country's fiercest drug-related violence.

When government cleanup crews arrived in Renacimiento on Thursday, a security detail accompanied them.

Two pickup trucks circled the area, packed with heavily armed police officers wearing bullet-proof jackets.

A woman ran screaming out of her storm-battered home -- not because of the damage -- but because she learned her son had been kidnapped.

Nearby, Paulina Bravo and Teodoro Medina were cleaning up storm damage. Their house was still intact, but floodwaters destroyed their stove, refrigerator and beds.

"Now, my husband and I take turns sleeping in this hammock," Bravo said.

Two bags of bread, she said, are the only government aid she's received so far.

Bravo and her husband shoveled mud out of their home, determined to clean up after the storm, whether anyone from the government helps them or not.

In Spanish, the town's name -- Renacimiento -- means rebirth.

Shasta Darlington reported from Renacimiento and Acapulco, Guerrero. CNN's Krupskaia Alis, Catherine E. Shoichet, Mariano Castillo and CNNMexico contributed to this report.

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