- POSTED: 19 Sep 2013 23:56
- UPDATED: 20 Sep 2013 03:46
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Deaths from floods and landslides battering Mexico neared 100 on Thursday as a fresh hurricane hit the northwest and rescuers faced a risky mission in a village buried in mud.
ATOYAC DE ALVAREZ, Mexico: Deaths from floods and landslides battering Mexico neared 100 on Thursday as a fresh hurricane hit the northwest and rescuers faced a risky mission in a village buried in mud.
Hurricane Manuel, the same weather system that pummelled the Pacific coast earlier this week, made landfall on the state of Sinaloa, prompting the evacuation of a small fishing town before weakening back to tropical storm force.
Luis Felipe Puente, the national civil protection coordinator, said the death toll rose to 97 from 81, with 65 of them registered in the southwestern state of Guerrero.
Guerrero was the hardest-hit state from the dual onslaught of Manuel and sister storm Ingrid on the east coast this week, which drenched most of the country, damaging bridges, roads and tens of thousands of homes.
The disaster left the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco cut off from the world, marooning tourists and residents, while a massive mudslide swamped a mountain hamlet of 400 people west of the city.
Ediberto Tabarez, the mayor of Atoyac de Alvarez, a municipality that oversees La Pintada, told AFP that at least 15 bodies have been found after more than 20 homes were crushed.
The threat of a new landslide in the coffee-growing village of La Pintada delayed a mission to seek 58 missing people.
But the federal government said it had yet to confirm any deaths and that so far survivors testified that they had removed five bodies from the site.
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said rescue teams were unable to start the search because water was gushing from the hill, threatening to send more rock and mud over the village.
Police helicopters had rescued 334 women, children and senior citizens on Wednesday and were supposed to return on Thursday to pick up 45 men and a few officers who were left behind overnight.
"These 45 people are in a dangerous situation," Osorio Chong told MVS radio, adding that homes are barely visible. "The rest of the hill could fall."
The mobile phones of AFP journalists heading to the village had no reception. An aerial video showed a river of mud that had slid down a hill, covering a huge chunk of the village.
From Atoyac, it normally takes two hours by car in winding mountain roads to reach La Pintada, but the road may be damaged by the storms, which could make the trek much lengthier.
Survivors of the disaster who were evacuated to Acapulco recalled hearing a rumble before the earth came crashing down on houses, the church and the school as people were having independence day lunch last Monday.
"It was an ugly noise, worse than a bomb," said Ana Clara Catalan, 17, who was preparing corn tortillas when the earth collapsed.
News of the disaster only emerged two days later after a survivor was able to radio someone in a neighboring village.
"More than half of La Pintada was demolished, few homes were left," said Maria del Carmen Catalan, a 27-year-old mother of three.
The storms that swept across the nation have damaged 35,000 homes and forced the evacuation of 50,000 people, officials said.
More than half of Acapulco was flooded, stranding 40,000 tourists who sought airlifts while looters ransacked stores.
The civilian airport's terminal was flooded in knee-high dark water, but commercial carriers Aeromexico and Interjet have flown special flights since Tuesday .
Osorio Chong said almost 12,000 tourists had been flown to Mexico City in special military and commercial flights while authorities hoped to re-open the road out of Acapulco on Friday.
A human rights group accused the authorities of neglecting mountain communities.
The minister said "we do care about the lives of people in the mountains" but "we can't enter some communities by air or land."
While Manuel churned in the west, a new tropical cyclone threatened to form in the east and cause more misery.