Tuesday 10 November 2020

"It has never rained so much, it was something extraordinary." Mexican President: At least 27 people have died and thousands have been displaced or left homeless from record-breaking flooding in southeast Mexico and other countries in the area

Flood rescues in Chiapas, Mexico, 06 November 2020 after rain from Hurricane Eta. Photo: Civil Protection Chiapas

At least 27 people have died and thousands have been displaced or left homeless from severe flooding in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco, in southeast Mexico, as a result of unprecedented downpours in the region, top officials said on Monday. "There was record rainfall. It had never rained so much. I am talking about the past 50 years in the case of Tabasco...

It was something extraordinary," Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is from Tabasco, told reporters at his daily press conference. "Fortunately the rains have stopped and no showers are expected for the next few days," said Lopez Obrador. According to the National Civil Protection Coordination, the effects of two cold fronts caused the death of 22 people in Chiapas, where 16,000 people in 32 towns have been affected.

In Tabasco, the storm claimed five lives and affected just over 148,000 people in eight towns, the agency said. "The torrential rains registered in the north of the state of Chiapas, on the border with Tabasco, caused the rivers that flow between the two states to rise," worsening flooding from rainfall, the agency added. The Mexican government has deployed more than 4,300 troops from the defence and naval ministries to help rescue and support the affected region.

Local officials in Honduras reported 21 dead, though the national disaster agency had confirmed only eight. 

Hurricane Eta initially hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane, and authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages following days of torrential rains during the week. In Guatemala, search teams first had to overcome multiple landslides and deep mud just to reach the site where officials have estimated some 150 homes were devastated. In the worst-hit village, Queja, at least five bodies have been pulled from the mud.

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The Indigenous community of about 1,200 residents consisted of simple homes of wood and tin roofs clinging to the mountainside. Rescue workers used a helicopter to evacuate survivor Emilio Caal, who said he lost as many as 40 family members and relatives. Caal, 65, suffered a dislocated shoulder when the landslide sent rocks, trees and earth hurtling onto the home where he was about to sit down to lunch with his wife and grandchildren.

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Caal said he was blown several yards (meters) by the force of the slide, and that none of the others was able to get out. "My wife is dead, my grandchildren are dead," said Caal from a nearby hospital. Firefighters' spokesman Ruben Tellez said at least one additional person died in Guatemala on Sunday when a small plane went down while carrying emergency supplies to the stricken area.

Floods in Sudan have killed 102 people, many more missing and almost 50 injured and affected over 550,000 people with more than 100,000 people in need of assistance. The rains are likely to increase water levels in the Blue Nile River, which are at the highest they have been in 100 years.

In neighbouring Honduras, 68-year-old Maria Elena Mejia Guadron died when the brown waters of the Chamelecon river poured into San Pedro Sula's Planeta neighbourhood before dawn Thursday. In southern Mexico, across the border from Guatemala, 20 people died as heavy rains attributed to Eta caused mudslides and swelled streams and rivers, according to Chiapas state civil defence official Elias Morales Rodriguez.

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