Monday, 23 September 2013

Mexico landslides: Rescuers dig in mud and rain for dead

Fourteen hours per body.

That's how long search crews with shovels, hydraulic equipment, anything they can muster, are averaging to find the victims of a massive landslide that took half the remote coffee-growing village of La Pintada, leaving 68 people missing.

The Mexican army's emergency response and rescue team slogged in several feet of mud and incessant rain with rescue dogs, recovering a total of five bodies as of Sunday, including a man found wedged under the collapsed roof of a dirt-filled home.

Lt. Carlos Alberto Mendoza, commander of the 16-soldier team, said it's the most daunting situation he's seen in 24 years with the army.

"They are doing unbelievable work, hours and hours for just one body," he told The Associated Press. "No matter how hard the day is, they never get tired of working."

La Pintada was the scene of the single greatest tragedy in destruction wreaked by the twin storms, Manuel and Ingrid, which simultaneously pounded both of Mexico's coasts a week ago, spawning huge floods and landslides across a third of the country. The official death toll has grown to 115, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night.

"As of today, there is little hope now that we will find anyone alive," President Enrique Pena Nieto said after touring the devastation at La Pintada, adding that the landslide covered at least 40 homes.

Survivors staying at a shelter in Acapulco recounted how a tidal wave of dirt, rocks and trees exploded through the center of town, burying families in their homes and sweeping wooden houses into the bed of the swollen river that winds past the village on its way to the Pacific

The scene by Sunday was desolate, a ghost town where 50 people still awaited evacuation. One man remained to care for abandoned goats, pigs and chickens that seemed disoriented as they roamed about.

When the rains get too hard, the crew has to stop for fear of being buried themselves by another slide, Mendoza said.

"The fundamental problem continues to be the rain," said Ricardo de La Cruz, national director of Civil Protection. "It complicates the rescue work not only by putting residents at risk, but the military and support crews as well."

Monday 23 September 2013


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