Los Cabos struggles after devastating storm Odile

Carola Sole

Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) (AFP) - There is still no water, no electricity and almost nothing to eat in Los Cabos, a small corner of paradise in northwestern Mexico leveled by Hurricane Odile.

Nearly a week after being hit by one of the season's most ferocious storms, this vacation resort area, still struggling to recover, is bracing for another sizable storm.

Tropical Storm Polo, due to skirt along Mexico's Baja California peninsula Sunday, was not expected to make landfall and was expected to pack less of a punch than Odile.

But the storm comes at the worst possible time, with residents of this town located at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula desperate to return to normal life.

Almost all the tourists have been evacuated from Los Cabos, freeing up the government to focus its full attention on helping local inhabitants in dire need of help.

Some 8,000 troops have been dispatched to the area to help with the task, but it has been an uphill slog.

The government sent a shipment of tons of food Friday, providing relief to some, but the aid has not always reached those most in need.

The military is helping rebuild highways and restoring the area's devastated electrical grid, but it could be days longer before it is fully repaired.

- Growing desperation -

Many supermarkets long ago ran out of food and water, and there is a fear that growing desperation could lead to a surge of violence that could see the looting that overran businesses spread to private homes.

"There's a greater fear of the human hurricane than the hurricane that just passed," said Jose Antonia Cota, 42, who decided to send his two teenaged sons to live for the time being with his sister in the central Mexican state of Queretaro.

The youths were far from the only residents seeking safety and greater security in other parts of Mexico.

The region has seen an exodus of those who have somewhere else to go -- especially those who have family or friends in the capital city Mexico City and in the central Mexican city of Guadalajara, the second largest in Mexico.

Others have made the three-hour drive to the state capital, La Paz, where supplies of food also have become more scarce.

Cota said he was taking advantage of one of the few airlifts provided by the Mexican government, to get his kids out of Los Cabos.

"The fewer mouths we have to feed and the less we have to spend on water, the better," said Cota, as he lined up with dozens of others at the partially destroyed airport.

Many residents lost their homes in the Odile, which thrashed the Mexican coast as a powerful category three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, flooding hotels and flattening homes.

Some of the region's humble homes were brought to ruin in the storm, but luxury hotels were also damaged in this town, a famous playground for tourists from the United States and Europe.

Thousands of tourists were airlifted from Baja's Los Cabos and La Paz airports in the wake of Odile, and the region continues to suffer widespread power outages several days after the storm.

The region was also beset by looters seeking to plunder abandoned homes and businesses, prompting the government sent extra federal police and soldiers to the Baja California peninsula.

The death toll from the storm has been raised to four people, officials said, including two South Korean tourists whose car was swept away in the flood, a German who died in a boat, and a British woman whose body was found Saturday.

The storm caused nearly $1 billion in damage, according to the Mexican Insurance Institutions Association.