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Mexico looks to rebuild from deadly, costly twin storms
by Staff Writers
Acapulco, Mexico (AFP) Sept 22, 2013

With shovels, rescuers seek bodies in Mexican village
La Pintada, Mexico (AFP) Sept 20, 2013 - Using shovels and pickaxes, hundreds of rescuers dug on Friday a mountain of mud that buried a Mexican village, making little progress in finding scores of missing people.

Soldiers, marines and civil protection workers toiled through the night in La Pintada, a coffee-growing village in the mountains west of the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

The little village has become ground zero of two devastating storms that swept across Mexico this week, flooding cities, breaking bridges and killing some 100 people nationwide.

Amid the tragedy, authorities have launched a search mission for a police helicopter that disappeared Thursday while conducting relief work in the same mountain region.

Almost 70 people vanished following Monday's mudslide in La Pintada, but the rescuers have only pulled two bodies from the mess of mud and broken homes so far amid constant drizzling rain.

The municipality's mayor has said that the residents had removed 15 bodies before the authorities arrived.

The mudslide occurred Monday, but news of the event only emerged after a survivor radioed another village two days later.

Without tractors or excavators to work with, the rescuers have had to resort to hand-held tools or their bare hands to remove the debris that swallowed have the hamlet of 400 people.

Many soldiers had to hike for seven hours to reach La Pintada on a winding road covered by earth and rocks. Bringing in heavy machinery to dig faster will take time.

The rescuers' arrival was delayed over fears that water gushing from the hill could unleash a new torrent of mud.

The few residents who decided to stay fear that as many as 80 people perished under the muddy tomb.

"I think there's a lot of dead. A lot of my relatives died, they're buried and we can't do anything," said farmer Diego Zeron.

Villagers said they had recovered four bodies the day after the tragedy.

"There was a woman, her younger brother, her three-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old girl," said Nohemias Romero, 25. he decided to stay behind to help with the rescue effort.

A civil protection worker said a woman had left her four children in the village square while she went to get food for them.

"The children died," he said.

The villagers were celebrating independence day when the earth rumbled and came crashing down last Monday.

Children were playing soccer, the faithful prayed for rain to stop at the small church, mothers prepared corn tortillas and a crowd ate soup at a party in the village square.

The mudslide rushed down from the hill and swallowed up half the village, taking houses, the school and the lone church before crashing into a river.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong warned that recovering bodies would take time.

"The rescue work has begun, it's very complicated," he said late Thursday. "It won't be easy. It won't be just a few days."

Mexico looked Saturday to the Herculean task of rebuilding after a rare double onslaught of storms, with at least 170 people feared dead in the path of destruction.

The death toll in the tragedy soared, with President Enrique Pena Nieto saying another 68 people were feared dead in a landslide in the southern village of La Pintada in Guerrero state. An earlier count put the number of dead at 101.

"The sheer volume of earth that has virtually buried more than 40 homes there means (it would be difficult) to find anybody alive" in La Pintada, the president said during a press conference with members of his cabinet in Guerrero, the state hardest hit by the twin storms that have since dissipated.

"As of today, there is virtually no hope that we can find anyone alive" in La Pintada, added the president who visited the devastated mountain town.

A police rescue helicopter missing since Thursday also was found to have crashed, with no survivors, the Interior Ministry said. Five policemen were killed, the ministry said in a statement.

Press reports earlier had said the aircraft, which had been set to deliver relief goods to and evacuate people from La Pintada, was carrying three.

Pena Nieto cancelled plans to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly next week and will instead stay in the disaster area to help coordinate relief efforts over the weekend.

An estimated 200,000 people were left homeless and nearly 60,000 were evacuated because of the flooding and landslides in the wake of the storms, Manuel on the west coast and Ingrid from the east, that socked this country of 112 million.

Officials also began tallying the massive economic damage in a country where the growth forecast already was lowered drastically in August. Road repairs alone will cost about $3 billion, the transport ministry said.

The tropical storms have hammered the country since September 14, damaging tens of thousands of homes, flooding cities and washing out roads.

Mexico had not been hit simultaneously by two powerful storms like this since 1958, the National Weather Service said.

Guerrero state was the hardest hit, with its Pacific resort of Acapulco left cut off after the two roads to Mexico City were covered by landslides on September 15. Tourists were stranded for five days.

Thousands finally packed into cars and buses on Friday after authorities reopened road links to the capital.

Around 62,000 tourists have managed to leave the city, about half by road and half in special airlift planes.

The airport -- where the terminal flooded last Saturday -- should be practically back to normal on Sunday, Communications and Transport Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told radio station Formula that the damage from the storms was "beyond calculation."

In Guerrero, one of Mexico's poorest states, it will be particularly hard to tally the toll because the terrain is mountainous with many small villages that are hard to reach, he said.

Early official estimates are that the storms damaged 1.5 million homes in 22 of Mexico's 32 states, along with 72 roads or highways.

In Guerrero alone, the preliminary damage estimate is $380 million, according to state Governor Angel Aguirre.

Half the picturesque resort city of Acapulco was flooded, while rising waters brought out crocodiles. Looters ransacked stores.

But Acapulco's airport, which had been swamped, "is almost back to normal service," Ruiz Esparza said at midday Saturday.

People continued to work with shovels and pickaxes in La Pintada, a coffee-growing village west of Acapulco.

The mud collapsed on the village of 400 people during independence day celebrations on Monday, swallowing homes, a school and church before crashing into the river.

Soldiers and civil protection workers, many wearing surgical masks, removed pieces of broken homes and chopped up fallen trees with machetes.


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Mudslide buries village as Hurricane Manuel lashes Mexico
Acapulco, Mexico (AFP) Sept 19, 2013
A resurgent hurricane lashed Mexico's northwest coast Thursday after twin storms killed at least 80 people nationwide and buried a village under a massive mudslide, leaving dozens more missing. Hurricane Manuel was "hugging" the coast of Sinaloa with winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, threatening to spark flash floods and landslides, the US National Hurricane Center said. Earli ... read more

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