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Mexico rescuers search for mudslide survivors

Rescuers search for 68 people missing after village mudslide, as death toll in storm-ravaged country reaches 97.

Last Modified: 20 Sep 2013 07:52
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The death toll in Mexico from devastating storms and flooding has risen to 97, after the harsh weather wrecked roads, destroyed bridges and triggered landslides that buried homes and their occupants.

In the Pacific resort of Acapulco, around 40,000 tourists found themselves stranded after the airport terminal was flooded, while dozens of people from a nearby village are missing after a deadly mudslide.

As 100 soldiers and police removed rubble with their hands in the village of La Pintada, Hurricane Manuel pounded the northwest state of Sinaloa, bringing more rain to the flood-stricken nation before weakening back to tropical storm strength.

Luis Felipe Puente, the national civil protection co-ordinator, said the death toll from days of floods and landslides had jumped to 97 from 81, with 65 of them registered in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

Civil Protection officials said close to 35,000 homes had been damaged or destroyed in the floods.

People were in the church asking God to stop the rain. The earth had been bubbling. When we heard a bang, we ran out.

Roberto Catalan, mudslide survivor.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said the number of people reported missing from La Pintada, which lies west of the Pacific resort of Acapulco in Guerrero, had risen to 68 from 58.

"The biggest effects from Manuel and Ingrid are in La Pintada," he told Formula radio.

A mudslide swamped the coffee-growing village on Monday as many people were having lunch during independence day celebrations.

However, news of the tragedy only emerged two days later after a survivor was able to radio a neighbouring village.

The mud cascaded down a hill and covered much of the village, burying homes, the school and church before crashing into a river. The church's steeple was toppled, its cross broken off.

"People were in the church asking God to stop the rain," said Roberto Catalan, a 56-year-old farmer."The earth had been bubbling. When we heard a bang, we ran out."

Mudslides and collapsed bridges have been reported on key highways, including the Highway of the Sun, a major four-lane expressway that links Acapulco to Mexico City.

As the main arteries to Acapulco remained closed on Friday, hundreds of exhausted and hungry tourists and residents lined up for a chance to secure food or a way out of the city.

The Mexican armed forces loaded boxes of aid onto rescue helicopters destined for stranded people in isolated areas.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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