La Pintada - Rescuers on Friday were to resume the grim
task of digging out a Mexican village buried by a landslide, with scores of
people still missing in the mountain of mud.
Police and soldiers pulled two bodies on Thursday from
the debris that buried the southwestern village of La Pintada, after storms
lashed the country and killed almost 100 people nationwide.
Enormous mounds of sodden earth became dislodged after
Hurricane Manuel pounded the northwest state of Sinaloa, bringing torrential
rains to the already flood-stricken nation before degenerating hours later.
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 the victims registered in the southwestern state of Guerrero.
Guerrero was the hardest-hit state from the dual
onslaught of Manuel and sister storm Ingrid on the east coast this week that
drenched most of Mexico, damaging bridges, roads and tens of thousands of
The storms flooded half of Acapulco, including the
airport terminal, while landslides blocked the only roads linking the city to
Thousands of angry, stranded tourists held a protest,
demanding swifter airlifts.
West of the city, in the mountains of Guerrero, some 100
rescuers toiled in the mud to look for victims of an epic mudslide that swamped
half of La Pintada and left 68 people missing in the coffee-growing hamlet.
Wearing surgical masks, they removed pieces of broken
homes and chopped up collapsed trees with machetes. The village church
vanished; only its broken steeple was left, toppled on a mess of mud, with its
'My friends died'
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said soldiers
had found two bodies so far. The municipality's mayor has said that 15 corpses
were found by villagers in recent days.
"The rescue work has begun. It's very complicated,
it won't be easy, it won't be just a few days," Osorio Chong said after
visiting the village.
Mud cascaded down a hill and covered much of the village,
burying homes, the school and church before ending its mad descent in a river.
"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."
Jose Minos Romero, 12, said he was playing soccer with 10
other children and was only saved "because my mother called me”, but
"my friends died”.
The mudslide swamped the village on Monday as many people
were having lunch during Independence Day celebrations. News of the tragedy
only emerged two days later, after a survivor radioed a neighbouring village.
The search for bodies was delayed several hours due to
fears that water gushing from the mountain could trigger a new landslide in the
But troops finally arrived by helicopter or foot after a
seven-hour hike on a winding mountain road covered by mud and rocks.
Police helicopters evacuated more than 330 people to
Acapulco on Wednesday, and authorities said up to 30 survivors had decided to
stay back until victims were found.
Local media said authorities lost contact with a
helicopter after it dropped off a group of survivors, but said it may have
simply landed due to bad weather and was unable to radio its base. A police
spokesperson refused to comment.
The storms that swept across the nation have damaged 35 000
homes and forced the evacuation of 50 000 people, officials said.
Human rights groups accused the government of neglecting
mountain communities, but officials said some remote communities cannot be
reached by land or air.
While rescuers looked for bodies in La Pintada,
authorities hoped to re-open part of the highways around Acapulco on Friday,
giving desperate and exhausted visitors a new way out after being trapped for
almost a week.
About 12 000 of 40 000 tourists have been flown to Mexico
City in special military and commercial flights from an air force base and the
But about 5 000 frustrated tourists sheltered at the convention
centre blocked an avenue for half an hour in protest against the slow pace of