Tropical storm death toll upped to 97 in Mexico

Mexico City, Sep 19 (EFE).- The twin tropical storms that have ravaged a good part of Mexico since last weekend have killed at least 97 people and forced the evacuation of thousands, Mexican authorities said Thursday.

The latest count of fatalities was provided by national Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente, who said that of the dead, 65 perished in the southern state of Guerrero and the rest in 10 other states around the country.

In remarks to ForoTV, Puente said that investigations are continuing to learn the fates of 58 people who are missing after a rainsoaked hillside gave way Sunday in the remote community of La Pintada, in Guerrero.

The Civil Protection director said that President Enrique Peña Nieto will travel to the scene in the coming hours, adding that authorities are confident that not all the missing are dead "and some are ... near their communities."

Earlier in the day, Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong had told MVS radio from Acapulco that "almost 50,000 people have been evacuated, of whom up until yesterday we had 33,000 in ... shelters which have been readied all over the Mexican republic," adding that Guerrero, where the Pacific resort city is located, has been the "most affected" by the nasty weather.

Storms Manuel and Ingrid created a deadly pincher across the country starting last Friday, the former from the Pacific side and the latter from the Gulf of Mexico, combining to create a serious weather situation the likes of which has not been seen since 1958.

Ingrid petered out on Tuesday but in the southern part of the Gulf a new low pressure area formed that could become a hurricane.

Manuel, on the other hand, revived on Wednesday and became a hurricane off the coast of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, where it made landfall on Thursday.

However, Puente said that Manuel had lost strength later in the day and been downgraded to a tropical storm again, adding that in the coming hours authorities expect it to dwindle in strength even more to a tropical depression.

Regarding the tens of thousands of tourists stranded in Acapulco due to the fact that the highway linking the vacation mecca with Mexico City has been cut by the heavy rains, Osorio Chong said that 11,500 people had already been transported out of the city thanks to an air bridge.

"The flights are not going to stop, there are more and more of them," he said.