Hurricane Otis not only devastated Acapulco, but also exposed fatal weaknesses in ageing infrastructure, teaching hard lessons that coastal cities throughout Mexico must draw on.
As Acapulco rebuilds after the deadly Category 5 hurricane, climate experts, architects, engineers and politicians recommended steps Mexico should take. These include tougher building standards, improving flood water management and enhancing storm detection to avoid repeating the death and destruction that Otis caused on Oct. 25.
Rising concern about climate change and increased proliferation of ultra-powerful storms has put pressure on Mexico, a top global tourist destination, to provide better protections, especially as coastal areas grow in population.
“Because these hurricanes are going to keep coming,” former Mexican Tourism Minister Enrique de la Madrid said, these tasks lie ahead: “How do we build more intelligently, and also how do we adopt policies to combat climate change?”
He noted that after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake killed thousands, the capital imposed tougher building standards. As a result, there was far less damage 32 years later when another major quake hit the capital.
While Mexico City must update its standards for structural design every six years, Mexico lets other individual municipalities issue their own construction regulations. It lacks national rules, unlike regional peers.
A 2019 government map showed swaths of coastal states Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and Guerrero – Acapulco’s home state – with no regulations at all. Acapulco does have its own.
After Otis, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has called for an analysis of the city’s buildings. His office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Adrian Pozos, a structural engineer at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said Otis showed building and design norms were no longer up to the job.
He studied the impact of Hurricane Odile, a Category 4 storm that ravaged tourist resorts in Baja California state in 2014.
While Acapulco suffered far greater damage, Odile also made short work of lighter building materials including drywall, and destroyed communications towers, he said.
When such parts detach, interiors are left exposed, causing more damage. Debris can turn into dangerous projectiles battering other buildings, Pozos said.
After Odile, Baja California’s building standards reflected new guidance on areas of weakness identified, such as roofs.
Source : Reuters