Latin America & Caribbean

Mexican vigilantes tackle looting after hurricane Odile

Vigilante groups in Baja California Sur, 17 Sep 14 Image copyright AP
Image caption Vigilante groups called on residents to join efforts to protect their properties

Vigilante groups in Mexico's Baja California Sur state have set up patrols to try to stop looting in the aftermath of hurricane Odile.

Mexican television has shown several incidents of looting at supermarkets, small shops and homes in the resort of San Jose de Los Cabos.

Federal police also vowed to step up work in the region.

Odile made landfall at Mexico's Pacific Coast on Sunday as a category three hurricane, damaging infrastructure.

Thousands of tourists who were left stranded are being airlifted to safety.

Many shacks in poor areas of Baja California Sur were blown away by the winds, which had maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h (125 m/ph) according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami.

Residents have called for urgent help from the authorities.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The American supermarket chain, Walmart, said four of its eight stores in the area were looted
Image copyright AP
Image caption There is shortage of petrol, water and food in the area affected by hurricane Odile
Image copyright AP
Image caption Mexican police have been organising the evacuation of tourists

"There is no water, food or money, as the cash point machines are not working. People are desperate," Juan Sanchez, member of a vigilante group, told Milenio newspaper.

Looting became a problem a few hours after the hurricane moved north towards the United States.

Residents lit bonfires at night to try to protect homes and businesses.

Vigilante groups have since gathered in the affected neighbourhoods vowing to defend their communities.

They are holding machetes and sticks, but many are wearing white shirts, to show that they are "men of peace".

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said that the army, the navy and the police were patrolling the streets and protecting homes and businesses in the area.

Federal Police National Commissioner Enrique Galindo told the AP news agency that seven people had been detained under suspicion of attempted looting in Baja California Sur.

Police will "aggressively enforce the law," he warned.

A second tropical storm, dubbed Polo, formed off of southern Mexico on Tuesday and is moving north-west. But it is expected to remain offshore.

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