LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) — Federal police on Thursday vowed to crack down on lawlessness and restore order in the hurricane-stricken resort area of Los Cabos after looting emptied store shelves and unnerved residents who worried their homes could be next.
Enrique Galindo, national commissioner of the Federal Police, said seven people, two of them carrying firearms, were detained on suspicion of attempted looting. He said police would aggressively enforce the law.
There were reports of gunfire overnight, and residents in Los Cabos lit large bonfires to try to protect their neighborhoods as they faced a fourth day without power or running water following the blow from Hurricane Odile. Police announced they would stop and question anyone on the streets after nightfall to make sure they had legitimate business at that hour.
“The problem is no longer the hurricane,” resident David Garcia said in a radio interview. “Everything started with the looting. Not even eight hours had passed since the hurricane before people started destroying stores.”
Los Cabos’ heavily damaged international airport was being powered by an emergency generator from the Federal Electricity Commission.
The U.S. State Department advised stranded travelers to go there as soon as possible and be prepared to wait as long as necessary to get on a flight out.
At the airport, thousands were in line under the burning sun as four planes waited on the tarmac. Travelers wheeled rolling suitcases across the asphalt and up the rear ramp of a Mexican air force transport plane, and strapped themselves in for a flight to Mexico City. Some of the passengers snapped selfies.
“We feel relieved … even if we still have to coordinate our next flight,” said Courtney Tague, a 48-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “After seeing what was going on — massive looting, no cellphone, no running water … it was frightening.”
Vanesa Torres, a high school teacher, was also on the military transport plane with her 1-year-old daughter, Arantxa.
“I was afraid for the baby girl,” Torres said. “My husband stayed looking after the house.”
Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu said 8,000 people, including tourists and locals anxious to leave, would be flown out Thursday.
The Mexican navy said it is helping supply food, mattresses, blankets and hot meals prepared in mobile kitchens.
Water and electricity service remained out and phone service was intermittent. Electric commission officials said some 2,500 power poles were toppled by Odile, which struck late Sunday as a Category 3 storm.
The roof of an auto dealership had collapsed onto a half-dozen cars, and debris was strewn about inside. Inside a waterlogged Wal-Mart superstore, there was nothing but puddles, trash, empty shelves and graffiti on the wall: “Long live crime!”
Some people lined up with 10-liter (2.6-gallon) jugs and other containers at a water station. Others ventured to the top of a small hill that seemed to be one of the few places with cellphone coverage.
Civil Protection officials reported that the town of Bahia de Los Angeles in the state of Baja California was cut off because of storm damage to the only highway serving it. A long stretch of asphalt was completely washed out, and a tractor-trailer lay on its side in the mud.
In Baja California Sur state’s capital of La Paz, where Odile hit with less intensity, Mayor Esthela Ponce said 10,000 homes were damaged. Electricity and running water had been restored to about 30 percent of customers.
Mexican marines and sailors were searching for two foreigners reported missing aboard a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California. Their nationalities were not released.
After hammering the Baja California Peninsula and other parts of northern Mexico in recent days, the remnants of Odile soaked parts of the U.S. Southwest and was dissipating near the Arizona-New Mexico border.
To the south, Hurricane Polo weakened into a tropical storm off Mexico’s Pacific coast. It was headed in the general direction of Los Cabos, but forecasters said it appeared likely the center would remain offshore and sweep past on Sunday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Polo was 180 miles (290 kilometers) south of Cabo Corrientes on Thursday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). It was moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).
Out in the north Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard also weakened into a tropical storm. It was predicted to remain far from land, although officials warned that swells could cause dangerous surf along parts of the east coast of the U.S. and Canada.
In Maryland, officials said two men drowned Wednesday in strong rip currents believed to be caused by Edouard.
Associated Press writers Miguel Cervantes in Tijuana and Dario Lopez-Mills in Los Cabos contributed to this report.