Landslide hits Mexican town

Authorities say at least 11 people are missing, with many houses buried in a remote area of southern Oaxaca state.

    Rescue workers are searching for the missing after the rain-triggered landslide buried up to 300 homes [AFP]  

    Several people are missing after a landslide triggered by torrential rain hit a town in southern Mexico, burying many homes.

    A water-logged hillside above Santa Maria Tlahitoltepec, in a remote part of Oaxaca state, gave way at about 3am [0800 GMT] on Tuesday, sparking fears that "up to 1,000" people may have died and between 100 and 300 houses destroyed.

    But Jose Francisco Blake, Mexico's interior minister, said later that damage in Santa Maria Tlahitoltepec did not appear to be as bad as initially feared.

    "Happily, the casualty toll has changed, so much so that we can't even confirm any death," he said after arriving in Oaxaca city.

    Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, also said on his Twitter account that there was a lot of damage, but "perhaps not of the magnitude initially reported".

    "There has been lots of rain, rivers have overflowed, and we're having a hard time reaching the area because there are landslides on the roads," Ulises Ruiz, the Oaxaca governor, said.

    Both Ruiz and Calderon had said earlier on Tuesday that at least seven people had been killed and 100 others were missing after Tropical Storm Matthew hit southern Mexico.

    Oaxaca police said on Tuesday afternoon that only a handful of homes appeared to have been destroyed.

    Officials said that rain had also affected Tabasco and Chiapas, two states adjoining Oxaca.

    Rescue 'difficult'

    Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, the town struck by the landslide, is located in a remote part of the Sierra Juarez mountain range.

    Mariana Sanchez, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mexico City, said the remoteness of the area as well as blocked roads was making the rescue mission very difficult.

    "They have not said whether they will be able to land at the capital of Oaxaca, which is about four hours away from the affected area, or if they will be able to get closer," she said.

    "There are even rescue teams who are going there by foot. But it is very dangerous, it has been raining for 12 days non-stop. Mexico says there will be rains for at least another month. Thousands in the south have already been affected."

    Matthew, the 13th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, has caused torrential downpours in the area 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 worse ever recorded in parts of Mexico, including Oaxaca.

    Colombian landslide

    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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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