Costalegre takes stock after Hurricane Patricia

Teams evaluating the destructive toll taken by Hurricane Patricia say at least 9,000 homes on Jalisco’s southern coastline have suffered some kind of damage, many of them irreparably.

Personnel from the state Social Development Agency (Sedesol) are going door-to-door to make an inventory of the damages. 

Sedesol Director Jose Antonio Meade said the victims of the hurricane would start to see financial assistance coming through by the weekend.   The Red Cross, Mexican armed forces and other emergency aid agencies started shipping food and supplies to the region as soon as the hurricane had passed.  Hundreds of soldiers and relief workers are in he zone and will stay as long as they are needed, federal authorities say. 

Meanwhile, employees from agricultural agencies  are evaluating the devastation the storm inflicted on the region’s crops.

By Tuesday, state authorities reported that at least 15,000 hectares of crops had been destroyed, but warned the figure would certainly rise.  

In the municipality of Ciuhatlan, 3,500 hectares of banana and papaya plantations were ruined, as well as 1,000 hectares of mango.  Huge quantities of corn were also decimated.

The devastation to the banana crop will impact the region’s economy severely, since the fruit has nine-month harvesting cycle.  It will be at least a year before the next crop can be harvested.

Insurance policies for farmers should kick in immediately, said Mario Ramos Velasco of Jalisco’s Rural Development Agency (Seder).  He confirmed that nearly all the region’s crops were insured. 

A spokesperson for Moody’s Investors Service said insurance companies are expecting to take a significant hit with Patricia, especially coming on the back of large payouts for Ingrid, which battered Acapulco in 2013,  and Odile’s hammering of Los Cabos in 2014.

The great majority of homeowners in the region who suffered damage to their properties are too poor to purchase  insurance. They will have to rely government handouts to get back on their feet.

The intense storm was especially harsh on structures made from lightweight materials.  Palapas and laminated tin roofs were ripped off by the heavy winds, and many  walls of homes built without rebar were toppled by the cyclonic winds.  

The heaviest damage was reported around Chamela, where the eye of the storm made landfall. Jalisco Government Secretary General Roberto Lopez Lara said 177 hotels in the region had been affected and that it would take at least five months before the tourism infrastructure was in any way back to normal.

State authorities have promised to fund special promotional campaigns to encourage tourists to visit the region and help the local economies over the next few months.

Beaches that will require considerable work to return them to their former condition include Careyes, Playa Blanca, Playa Rosa, Playa Careyitos, Bahía de Chamela, La Manzanilla, El Tecuán, Pérula, Tenecatita and Boca de Iguanas. 

While those living in humble communities along the coast took the brunt of the storm, the region’s upmarket tourist facilities also felt its full force.

In Careyes, a favorite celebrity hangout, many of the terra-cotta tiles lining the resort’s roofs were blown off. One report noted that “shattered pieces of the orange tiles dot the resort’s narrow stairways. Elegant infinity pools are now littered with chunks of collapsed balconies, furniture and coconuts.” The 20 – mostly foreign – guests in the complex had been evacuated before the hurricane hit.

In an short-term bid to counter the impact of Patricia on the region’s economy, the Jalisco government released emergency funds Monday that will provide 400 temporary jobs in the most affected zones.

Health authorities are also concerned that dengue fever and diarrhea may surge in the wake of the hurricane. The Jalisco Heath Department has announced that it will soon be starting a nebulization program in a bid to eliminate dengue-carrying mosquitos.