Angry, hungry victims of Hurricane Pauline lambasted Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo Saturday amid a chaotic relief effort and a discrepancy between the official and unofficial death tolls.
Zedillo, who cut short a state visit to Germany, visited this devastated Pacific resort for the first time as homeless people mobbed aid centers, and rescue workers picked through the mud looking for more dead.
While Zedillo kissed babies and hugged old ladies in front of news cameras at a relief center, other people shouted at him in frustration, complaining that help had not yet arrived although the killer storm passed through two days ago.
"What do you mean no?" Zedillo asked, after being told that no aid had been received. "Is there water?"
"No!" shouted the crowd.
"Are there clothes?" the president asked.
"No!" came the chorus, after which Zedillo stopped asking questions.
There was also a big discrepancy between the official and unofficial death tolls. Interior Minister Emilio Chuayffet said there were 136 dead in the western state of Guerrero alone and some 300 people missing, private Radio Red reported.
But the Mexican Red Cross had put the estimated death toll as high as 400, with 20,000 homeless, and the total was likely to rise as the dead in remote communities were added to the mounting casualties.
Meanwhile, in neighboring California, Gov. Pete Wilson on Saturday ordered the state's National Guard and disaster agency, the Office of Emergency Services, to collect supplies from Los Angeles charity groups for shipment to Acapulco.
Weary rescue workers in that Pacific resort city searched with bare hands and shovels in deep mud washed down from the surrounding mountains, but didn't report finding any more bodies on Saturday. Some victims may have been washed out to sea, rescue workers said.
Zedillo acknowledged that politics played a part in the tragedy. He asserted that corrupt local officials had allowed scores of impoverished shanties to remain perched dangerously on the sides of the mountains in neighborhoods that surround the bay.
"I will not permit these homes to be rebuilt in the same places," Zedillo said.
At relief centers, army soldiers frantically dispensed relief packages that included water, milk, cooking oil, canned food, rice and beans.
At one center, more than 2,000 people gathered ankle deep in mud amid a swarm of flies and crying babies, desperately trying to get food after having gone a day or two without. At least one man passed out while waiting.
People begged reporters for water and food.
During his visit, Zedillo promised the victims the government would spend whatever it took to help the victims and the city's lucrative tourist trade recover from the storm.
Tourists in high-rise hotels weathered the hurricane with little difficulty, but thousands of poor Mexicans living in makeshift homes in the hills above Acapulco's bay were plastered by flooding and mudslides.
The storm eventually dissipated Friday after it moved inland and was cut off from its supply of sea water.
South of Acapulco, poor villages along the coast did not fare much better. Major roads into the area were reopened on Saturday but many towns still lacked clean water, electricity and telephone service.