Hurricane Otis Leaves Acapulco Grappling with Trash Mountains and Public Health Nightmare


Nov. 28 2023, Published 12:53 p.m. ET

Destruction left over from Hurricane Otis in Acapulco.
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco in October 2023. The category 5 storm was the strongest to hit the area on record.
  • Over 600,000 tons of garbage were left littering the city in the wake of the hurricane.
  • The trash buildup may be attributed to illnesses in Acapulco residents and cleanup crews.
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Acapulco, Mexico is a tourist destination many people visit to escape the winter cold. However, in the wake of Hurricane Otis, this coastal Mexican city has become a public health crisis, with piles of garbage littering the streets.

It’s estimated that Acapulco has 666,000 tons of garbage piled up around the city, and residents are suffering illnesses that may be due to the trash buildup, The New York Times reported. Here’s what we know about the hurricane that devastated Acapulco in 2023.

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Debris in the streets of Acapulco after Hurricane Otis.
Source: Getty Images

When was Hurricane Otis? The major 2023 hurricane tore through Acapulco, Mexico.

Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco as a Category 5 hurricane on Oct. 25, 2023, according to the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). It was the strongest hurricane to hit the area in history, with winds up to 165 miles per hour, per NESDIS.

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Initially categorized as a tropical storm, Otis quickly picked up strength before it hit landfall, catching Acapulco’s more than 1 million residents off guard. At least 50 people died, and 30 are considered missing in the aftermath of the hurricane as of publication on Nov. 28, The New York Times reported. The powerful storm also knocked out power and left residents without food and drinkable water.

Hurricane Otis left behind a trash crisis in Acapulco in 2023.

Mexican troops were reportedly sent in right after the storm to help clean up the area, but those efforts were primarily focused on tourist areas along the beach, The New York Times reported. Trash piles of debris, decaying food, and even dead bodies still litter other areas of Acapulco.

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"They need to come and get the trash because there's too much of it," resident Rosa Pacheco told Reuters. "There's almost no way through because there's more and more trash every day.”

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Acapulco Mayor Abelina Lópes Rodríguez estimated there are 666,000 tons of trash throughout the city, with over 211,000 tons already collected as of Nov. 28, reported The New York Times. To deal with the garbage, the city will need about hundreds more trucks, as well as more room at the local landfill, as per the news outlet.

Meanwhile, the garbage piles attract unwanted guests like cockroaches and rats, and there is a concern that standing water can attract mosquitos who will breed, which could lead to mosquito-borne illnesses, U.S. News & World Report reported.

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The aftermath of Hurrican Otis in Acapulco.
Source: Getty Images

Many residents reportedly complain about illnesses like diarrhea, stomach issues, and rashes that may be attributed to the trash buildup. “There are a lot of problems. The smell of rubbish is intensifying, the health problems too. So it’s very important and urgent to help the whole port,” resident Nelly Casarrubias told CNN.

In a press conference aired by CNN, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said they are fumigating areas to avoid diseases and that there is a cleanup plan for the city.

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