Mexico hunts landslide survivors
Disaster officials warn of no let-up in rainfall as rescuers find bodies of victims in two southern states.
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2010 06:12 GMT
Amatan, a town in Chiapas province, was the second of two Mexican towns to be struck by deadly landslides [AFP]

Rescuers searching for 11 people missing after their homes were buried by a landslide in southern Mexico have recovered four bodies, hours after at least 12 others died in a separate landslide in a neighbouring state.

Emergency workers delivered blankets and supplies to surivivors of the incident in the remote mountain town of Santa Maria Tlahitoltepec, in Oaxaca state, which was hit by a landslide when a water-logged hillside above the town gave way early on Tuesday.

Authorities initially feared that up to 1,000 people could have died in the incident, but later discovered that only 11 people were missing and none confirmed dead.

But as rescue teams worked to find the missing, another rain-triggered landslide in Amatan, a town in Chiapas, left at least 12 people dead and another 13 injured.

"Unfortunately there has been a new landslide ... . We are mobilising aid to help," Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, said via his Twitter account as news of the Chiapas landslide broke.

Officials are warning that there could be more landslides in coming days as southern Mexico experiences heavy rains.

"There are fears of more landslides in Chiapas, Oaxaca and the mountainous zone in this strip of territory in the country's southeast, since the ground is softened, is saturated," Laura Gurza, chief of the federal civil protection emergency response agency, said.

Rescue hampered

The prospect of further landslides is hampering rescue efforts, with the search in Oaxaca suspended on Tuesday as rains continued to fall, only resuming on Wednesday.

Residents of Santa Maria Tlahitoltepec carried out their own search and rescue effort, digging into the thick mud in an effort to find their neighbours. They said that most of the homes affected had been completely buried, and there were no signs of life under the mud.

Oaxaca's civil protection operations co-ordinator, Luis Marin, said the state had seen three days of intense rain. The state government warned residents south of the city of Oaxaca of flooding from overflowing rivers and opened shelters in other parts of the state.

Mexico has been suffering from heavy rains over the past week, threatening waterlogged sugar and coffee farms. Residents in the region's coastal and low-lying areas have been wading through flooded streets since Monday, trying to salvage their belongings.

This year's rainy season has been the worst ever recorded in parts of Mexico, and weather experts predict that the wet weather could continue for up to a month.

Meanwhile, in Colombia authorities said it would take at least a week to unearth up to 30 people who were buried by a landslide in the northwestern state of Antioguia, north of the capital Bogota.

A torrent of earth swept onto a highway in the state on Monday as people were getting off a bus in the town of Giraldo, covering houses, vehicles and trees.

"There are no survivors, that's for sure," John Freddy Rendon, the regional disaster relief chief, told the Associated Press news agency.

He said the victims included children, pregnant women and the inhabitants of five houses.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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