Flood evacueees return to ruins in Mexican city

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico -- People who were driven from riverside neighborhoods by deadly flooding returned to water-logged homes in this northern Mexican city to salvage their belongings Tuesday.

City officials raised the death toll to 34. Many residents began burying the dead, and large trucks started clearing the streets of debris.

At least a dozen people remained missing in Piedras Negras, a town of 200,000 in Coahuila state, 150 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas.

About 200 people were evacuated from homes early Tuesday by flooding on the northern outskirts of Piedras Negras, following Sunday's devastating flash floods on the city's south side.

Catarino Martinez, 63, found a single wall where his house once stood. Martinez was not sure if his home would be rebuilt. The flood carried away the blacksmithing tools that were his livelihood.

"It has left me in the street," said Martinez. "I can't work. It took everything."

Soldiers, ordered in by President Vicente Fox, looked for survivors Tuesday and began clearing away cars and toppled light poles.

On Monday, Fox visited a temporary shelter in Piedras Negras and declared a state of emergency. Many neighborhoods remained without electricity, gas service and potable water.

Coahuila Gov. Enrique Martinez called the flooding some of the worst in the history of the U.S.-Mexico border region.

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