Survivors of Hurricane Odile described the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas as lawless and desperate; a place where basic supplies are needed and thousands of Americans are trapped.
Even first responders, tasked with helping Cabo San Lucas recover from the disastrous Hurricane Odile, have run out of food themselves and are in desperate need of help, a spokesperson told NBC 7.
Robert Allen, a Canadian firefighter working for the Cabo Fire Department, came to San Diego on Wednesday for two reasons: to get his family out and to get help for his city.
“The guys are having trouble keeping their own families fed and watered right now, so it’s challenging,” said Allen, who serves on the department’s public relations team.
Hitting land Sunday and Monday, the Category 3 storm left a wide path of chaos across the Baja California Peninsula.
Odile tore through the Mexican resort state of Baja California Sur late Sunday and Monday.
The Los Cabos airport was closed to commercial travel and basic supplies were limited or running low. Survivors like Allen captured video of rampant looting.
“Costco, Sam’s Club, all those stores looted, and there’s been some local Mexican box stores as well,” said Allen. “And then there's gangs roaming the streets and things like that too, helping themselves to people’s personal effects and stuff like that.”
Suburbs once filled with homes were flattened into a field. The main electrical towers were downed, and power poles littered the streets.
City officials don’t expect the electricity to be turned on again for another three weeks, Allen said.
He and his coworkers have been focused on clearing the roads so emergency vehicle can access different parts of Cabo.
But they don’t have the equipment of other stations to help pry people out of tight spots, and as their food runs low, so does their energy.
Allen plans to contact consulates in the U.S. to see if other countries can offer aid.
If that doesn’t work, Allen – the only Cabo firefighter outside the city right now – will spread the word on his own, asking everyone for assistance. He has launched a GoFundMe.com page to collect donations.
“It originally started as a starving kids program, and now it’s turned into a starving firefighter program just to take care of the guys so they can go help other people,” said Allen.
Newlyweds Craig Newell and his wife Jill said the hurricane was awful in itself but it was the aftermath that was truly frightening.
There was no phone service, no cellular service, no Wi-Fi, nothing.
“All to be gone and to have nothing whatsoever except for our wits, what’s in our backpacks and what’s in our pockets,” Craig said.
A San Diego firefighter, Craig knew they couldn't wait for rescue but had to rescue themselves.
So when they had the chance to jump on an airplane to an unknown destination without their luggage, they took it. They ended up near La Paz and were able to get back to the U.S. Wednesday night.
Those tourists stranded in Cabo are getting very desperate, even hostile, they said. The evacuation is unorganized.
“It’s everybody for themselves,” Jill said.
Both wanted to know why the U.S. government has not gotten involved in the evacuation efforts.
“Thousands of our citizens are trapped down there in horrible conditions that need rescue,” Craig said.
“[Mexican authorities] are overwhelmed with the evacuation,” he said. “I don’t think they have the resources or the personnel or the training maybe to accomplish this massive evacuation.
Another American arrived on the same San Diego-bound flight as Allen: Peter Tschetter.
He said descriptions and photos shown in the media don’t do the hurricane's devastation justice.
“It was total chaos, not even fit for animals to be there,” said Tchetter.
The tourist described a suddenly dangerous city where people were roaming the streets, looking for water.
He said men, women and children grabbed everything from stores -- even things they didn't need.
Homeowners began barricading their property to protect themselves from looters.
“People were even breaking into homes of people who live there to steal their stuff, and if they didn't get out, they'd probably kill them,” said Tchetter.
Tchetter and some 26,000 foreign tourists are struggling to get out of the turmoil, but Allen will be returning in a week to help those left behind.