Aid efforts continue after flood in Mexico

Death toll remains at 33

thousands left homeless

April 08, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico - Help arrived by the truckload in flood-ravaged neighborhoods of this border town yesterday, bringing relief to thousands of desperate residents who lost everything to the Rio Escondido over the weekend.

The flood's death toll remained at 33, with dozens more missing and nearly 2,000 people getting help in shelters. About 400 people from the military and hundreds of government officials and volunteers, many wearing face masks to guard against health risks, worked through the night to restore power and clear away debris.

"Some of these people built up their houses for 10 or 20 years and then lost everything in an hour," said Humberto Galindo, a Piedras Negras engineer and volunteer coordinator for the city's largest shelter, an auditorium serving about 1,500 displaced residents.

The search continued for the missing in areas downstream on the Rio Grande, including the city of Hidalgo, where many of the bodies have been found.

Antonio Hernandez had been looking for three of his children after they disappeared. Late Tuesday, rescue workers found the bodies of his two daughters, ages 11 and 3, nearly 20 miles away. His 6-year-old son was still missing, family members said.

"At least they found Adrianna and Lupita," said Salvador Lopez, Hernandez' brother-in-law.

Weather officials said heavy rains in the Muzquiz Mountains, southwest of the city, caused the flash floods that engulfed some neighborhoods in this town across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

"The storms built up along the mountain range and just sat there," said Mark Lenz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Braunfels, Texas. "The flooding was entirely from the rainfall in that river basin."

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