Thousands of exhausted, hungry and increasingly despondent tourists lined up late into the night on a muddy road outside a military base for a chance to get home on one of two precious air bridges out of this famed beach resort isolated by landslides set off by Tropical Storm Manuel.
With the twin roads to Mexico City closed down, at least 40,000 tourists saw a long holiday beach weekend degenerate into a desperate struggle to get weeping children, elderly parents, and even a few damp, bedraggled dogs back home.
Two of Mexico's largest airlines were running about two flights an hour from Acapulco's still-flooded international airport Tuesday, with priority for those with tickets, the elderly, and families with young children.
Everyone else who couldn't wait for the government's promise to reopen the roads within two days flocked to Air Base 7 about 20 minutes north of Acapulco, where a military air bridge made up of barely more than a dozen aircraft ferried tourists to Mexico City. The normally quiet beachfront installation was transformed into a scene from a conflict zone.
Families in shorts and sandals waited for as long as eight hours outside the gates of the base, held at bay by rifle-toting soldiers until they were allowed to drag suitcases, pet carriers, and red-eyed children across the tarmac, where they jostled furiously for a chance at one of the 150 seats on the next departing Air Force Boeing 727.