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Mexico hunts for missing after landslides kill 45
Huauchinango, Mexico (AFP) Aug 8, 2016

Macedonia mourns after storms kill 21
Skopje (AFP) Aug 8, 2016 - Macedonia held a day of mourning Monday after at least 21 people were killed in flooding and violent winds as a freak storm battered the capital Skopje.

The city was battered overnight Saturday- Sunday with winds packing speeds of more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour, while torrents of mud and water swept away cars.

"Our teams are on the ground, searching the affected terrain," interior ministry spokeswoman Natalija Spirova Kordic told AFP, although she said all those registered missing had been accounted for.

Local media said the youngest victim was just one year old and the oldest was 83, but Kordic could not their confirm their ages.

A state of emergency declared on Sunday was extended for 15 days in Skopje and the northwestern city of Tetovo, where heavy storms caused damage to property but no casualties.

Villages on the northern outskirts of the capital were particularly badly affected.

Meteorologists said more than 800 lightning strikes were recorded in the first two hours of the storm, during which the average rainfall for the whole of August fell on Skopje in the space of just two hours.

The subsequent floods reached as high as 1.5 metres (five feet) in some areas.

Some of the victims died in their cars as they were rapidly engulfed, while others were unable to flee their homes in time to reach safety.

A statement from the European Union expressed "deepest sympathies" and offered assistance to the authorities in Macedonia, home to two million people.

The landlocked nation is an EU candidate country, although accession negotiations are yet to get under way.

Skopje previously suffered disastrous flooding in 1962, a year before a huge earthquake that almost destroyed the city.

In the spring of 2014, the Balkans region was hit by its worst floods in more than a century, which affected 1.6 million people and left 47 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia.

Hundreds of soldiers and rescue workers searched for the missing Monday after the remnants of Tropical Storm Earl triggered landslides in central Mexico that killed at least 45 people.

Trudging through mud that was sometimes up to their knees, emergency teams used sniffer dogs to find more bodies in the rubble and worked to dig damaged homes out of the muck.

Among the bodies they uncovered were those of Antonia Orozco and her month-old baby, whom she died clutching in her arms as a river of mud washed over their house in the central village of Xaltepec.

Her mother-in-law, Alberta Negrete, 62, also lost her four children and two other grandchildren.

"My entire body hurts from pulling myself out of the mud. God helped me," she said with a vacant look, before bursting into sobs.

Earl smashed into Central America at hurricane strength Wednesday, and then hit Mexico as a tropical storm on Thursday before weakening to a tropical depression.

But its remnants still packed a deadly punch.

Hardest hit was the central state of Puebla, where 32 people died, including at least 15 minors, as landslides buried several homes in the state's northern mountains, said governor Rafael Moreno Valle.

"There are communities that are cut off. It's taking us a lot of work to get through," he said.

In one Puebla village, a rain-soaked hill crumbled and came sweeping down on the town, killing 11 people including eight minors. Some 500 families were evacuated to shelters.

Officials did not say how many people were missing. There were some 600 soldiers and rescue workers out searching.

Another 13 died in similar circumstances or washed away in the flood waters in the eastern state of Veracruz, officials said.

- Cries for help -

In the town of Huauchinango, the amount of rain that normally falls in a month came pouring down in just 24 hours, the Puebla government said.

"An avalanche of mud came down on us... Our house was completely swept away," said Claudio Cruz, a 32-year-old resident of nearby Xaltepec, who had been evacuated to Huauchinango with his wife after losing everything but the clothes on their backs.

"We could hear people calling for help from below, but we couldn't move," he said.

Several highways in Puebla were ripped up, two bridges collapsed and power was knocked out in several towns.

Moreno Valle pledged to rebuild damaged structures and posted on Twitter photos of himself walking in mud and residents helping in clean-up efforts.

He warned late Sunday that the death toll could rise.

"We're still in a search mode and we already have canine teams... searching for missing people," he said.

More than 2,000 homes in Veracruz were damaged and 18 villages were cut off by flooding in the south and center of the state.

Geologists are at the scene examining whether it is safe for evacuated residents to return, officials said.

- Javier on its way -

Now it is the approaching Tropical Storm Javier that is sparking new warnings.

Javier, which could strengthen to hurricane status by Monday afternoon, was expected to bring heavy rains and high winds to southwestern Mexico in the coming days.

Mexican weather forecasters said Javier was about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Cabo San Lucas.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour with higher gusts, and was expected to dump 10 to 15 centimeters (four to six inches) of rain in western Mexico, said the US National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters warned of swollen rivers, heavy rain, choppy waves and more flooding.

Preparing for landfall, authorities set up 18 emergency shelters and closed ports and schools in Cabo San Lucas, a resort city popular with tourists.

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