Late Sunday night, Hurricane Odile hit the southern tip of Baja California Sur and affected numerous cities, including Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, San Jose del Cabo, and Loreto. Labeled a Category 3 storm, Odile brought in 125 mph winds and heavy rain, making it the most powerful hurricane ever to strike the Baja California peninsula of Mexico. As a result, many of the luxury resorts of the popular tourist destination have suffered significant damage. While the hurricane has steadily weakened since its arrival on Sunday, parts of hotels and buildings have collapsed, phone and power lines have been knocked out, and roads have been flooded. Despite the damage, no deaths have been reported. Individuals behind the relief effort have remained diligent, and efforts to evacuate stranded tourists and restore affected areas continue.
According to the Tourism Ministry, an estimated 26,000 foreign tourists and 4,000 Mexican tourists were in Los Cabos when Hurricane Odile struck. They took refuge in temporary shelters while more than 3,000 military personnel, police and emergency workers were dispatched to multiple cities throughout the region. Since Tuesday, flights have resumed from several airports, and military and commercial aircraft have been carrying stranded tourists out of the resorts. Tourism Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu said that around 5,000 tourists were evacuated by air on Tuesday. These efforts continue today, and it has been estimated that it will take 10 days for all operations to return to normal.
Word from President Enrique Pena Nieto’s office said that the federal government was working closely with state authorities on relief efforts, including restoring electricity. While the majority of residents appear to remain without power, government owned electric utility CFE estimated that it would restore 95% of all lost power in the state by the end of the week. The country’s biggest phone company, Telmex, said it had 200 technicians working to restore fallen lines and cut cables in order to restore phone service and normal operation in all affected areas.
Long-term economic impact remains unclear, but the Finance Ministry has already outlined a plan of action, including tax breaks and financial assistance for reconstruction. It said that companies would be able to deduct 100% of investments to rebuild, and that state development banks would make credit available at preferential interest rates for small businesses, hotels, and other tourism operators. For those with businesses and homes in Cabo, such news are significant.
While Hurricane Odile has certainly rattled tourists and residents alike, relief efforts from all directions have certainly eased the impact of the situation, and the individuals of Cabo remain hopeful. The International Community Foundation, a public charity that has served to benefit communities in Mexico and Latin America since 1990, has already begun assessing the needs of local communities in areas most affected. The organization plans to mobilize resources along with its long-time partner, the Mexican Red Cross, to contribute to both disaster relief and rebuilding efforts. Pisces Sportfishing Fleet, a charter company in Cabo San Lucas, acknowledged the devastation, but seemed to sum up the future ahead best: “We may face great challenges in the coming weeks and months, but we will rise up to the challenge and rebuild.”