Mexican villagers missing after landslide in wake of floods

Tuesday, November 6, 2007
People unloaded supplies Monday in Villahermosa, Mexico. (Marco Ugarte ~ Associated Press)

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico -- A massive wave of mud and water swept through a Mexican village Monday and up to 16 people were feared buried, officials said, as rescuers elsewhere worked furiously to deliver aid to victims of devastating flooding in southern Mexico.

A landslide blocked a rain-swollen river and pushed a wall of water and debris over the remote Chiapas state village of San Juan Grijalva, home to about 600 people, most of whom fled into the hills ahead of the advancing wave.

The community, 45 miles southwest of Villahermosa, is near to the border of heavily flooded Tabasco state and linked to the same river systems. The landslide was the latest damage caused by a week of flooding and heavy rains that left 80 percent of Tabasco under water, destroying or damaging the homes of about half a million people.

President Bush expressed his sympathy Monday to Mexican President Felipe Calderon over the suffering caused by the flooding. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Bush told Calderon the United States was ready to help the Mexican people meet their immediate needs and rebuild their lives and communities.

U.S. ambassador Tony Garza said the U.S. had pledged $300,000 in emergency assistance to Tabasco and Chiapas.

"Americans know only too well the horrible impact of such natural disasters on the lives of individuals and communities, and we are anxious to join the international community in providing assistance to our neighbors," he said.

After Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. in 2005, Mexico sent a convoy of about 200 unarmed soldiers and medical personnel across the border to aid in the recovery with portable kitchens and water treatment equipment.

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