Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Mexican state devastated by floods

AFP , MEXICO CITY

Residents of Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco, are rescued in boats by the Mexican Navy on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

One person was killed and more than 1 million people affected by flooding in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco, officials said, as hundreds of thousands waited yesterday for rescuers to pull them out of their homes in the worst floods ever in the region.

The oil-rich state the size of Belgium is now 80 percent underwater, officials said, adding that they expect the rain to continue.

Area rivers continue to swell because of the non-stop rain, and more than 850 towns have been flooded in the state, officials said.

"Of the 2.1 million Tabasquenos, more than half are suffering from this serious problem that has not been experienced in the history of Tabasco," state Governor Andres Granier told reporters.

"New Orleans was small compared to this," Granier said, comparing the flooding to that caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

There is one major difference with Katrina: As of late Thursday, only one person was reported killed by the flooding. That person died on Wednesday.

"Around 300,000 people are still trapped in their homes," he said, adding that army and navy helicopters and rescue boats were working on the rescue effort.

"The situation is extraordinarily grave," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in an address to the nation late on Thursday asking for donations.

He described the situation as "one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the country."

Tabasco "is devastated," Granier said. "One-hundred percent of crops are lost."

Granier warned that the flooding could get even worse as forecasters said a new cold front could bring more rain over the weekend.

Some 400 doctors and health workers were deployed to detect any outbreak of infections, the state's civil protection agency said.

Soldiers and state authorities had placed more than 700,000 sand bags along the rivers to prevent flooding, but the water rose above the barriers.

Authorities also drained water from two dams to prevent them from exceeding capacity. The drainage caused three rivers to burst their banks.

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