MEXICO CITY -- Two powerful storms gripped Mexico in a pincer movement Monday, dumping tons of rain on both coasts, forcing closures of roads and airports in several cities and killing at least 34 people.
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong called the weather phenomenon “historic” and said two-thirds of national territory was suffering from the two storms’ impact, affecting more than 1.2 million people.
President Enrique Peña Nieto interrupted Independence Day ceremonies Monday, called an emergency Cabinet meeting and then rushed to Acapulco, the Pacific coast tourist city in one of the hardest-hits states, Guerrero. Tens of thousands of people in several states were forced to flee their homes.
What had been Hurricane Ingrid continued to swirl off Mexico’s Gulf Coast including Veracruz state, weakening slightly to tropical storm level, while Tropical Storm Manuel dumped torrential rains on the Pacific coast.
News agencies counted 34 dead nationwide. Victims drowned, were swept away in rivers or crushed by landslides. The Highway of the Sun from Mexico City to Acapulco was forced to close, as was the resort city’s airport, stranding travelers on the long holiday weekend.
The last time Mexico saw a similar double-whammy of twin storms hitting simultaneously was 1958, Mexican media reported.
Before weakening, Ingrid had sustained winds of 45 mph. Manuel’s maximum sustained winds reached 30 mph; Manuel was dissipating late Monday.
The government declared an emergency over the weekend, and officials said Monday that the measure which provides for rescues, sheltering and other steps would continue until further notice because rain was not expected to let up soon.
"It is necessary for all personnel to remain alert and help the population to avoid risking more lives," said national Social Development Minister Rosario Robles.