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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 October 2005, 01:30 GMT 02:30 UK
Town divided and destroyed by Stan
By Claire Marshall
BBC News, Tapachula, southern Mexico

Site of destroyed bridge in Tapachula
The storm tore Tapachula in two
A week ago, the river which passes through this southern Mexico border town, flowed at a calm and constant pace.

Then came Hurricane Stan.

It turned this river into a violent, destructive wall of water, that tore the town in two. Families have been split apart.

A crowd stands beside a precipice that used to be a railway bridge. The bent and twisted tracks skew down towards the brown raging torrent.

As the rain continues to fall, the people look out towards the other bank of the river, where the remains of houses are being battered by the floodwaters.

Mercedes Hipolito Ochoa has tears streaming down her face.

She says that at least 15 members of her family are trapped on the other side. They include six children, including a baby.

"They are stuck over there," she says, pointing with one hand, and wiping her face with the other.

"Please, please someone do something."

No livelihood

Further up the river, 24-year-old Mario Alberto gestures towards the surging waters. His house used to be there.

Tapachula resident salvages furniture
Residents are trying to salvage what they can
"The river took everything - we don't have anything left. The entire community has gone. We used to live by the curve of the river. We couldn't save anything.

"They didn't warn us - and we are looking at the consequences right now".

He used to play in a band, but with his instruments washed away, he has no livelihood.

Cut off

Standing near him is an elderly woman, clutching the hand of a small boy. She also looks out towards the obliterated communities, with moisture in her eyes.

Helicopter above Tapachula
The only way to reach the town is by air
"Thanks to god, we got out," she says. "But we sacrificed so much to build our house, and now it's all gone. We're very sad because some of our neighbours are still over there - they stayed to help people and now they're trapped."

Like many others across the region, the town of Tapachula is completely isolated.

All of the bridges leading out have been destroyed by the river. The only way in or out is by air.

Dozens of goods lorries bound for the capital stand idly under the near-constant drizzle.

The weather is still too bad for a sustained air rescue and recovery operation to get underway.

Tens of thousands of people are homeless. They are mostly poor, and have little or no means of re-building their wrecked lives.

Here, one of the most deadly hurricane seasons on record has created a lasting misery.

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