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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK

World: Americas

Floods devastate Mexico

Mexican troops use boats to evacuate people from their homes

An emergency is in force across five states in southern Mexico as the authorities battle to cope with the worst floods to hit the area for 40 years.

More than 100 people are known to have died in areas bordering the Gulf of Mexico; 100,000 people are homeless and several ports have been closed indefinitely.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar: "More rain is predicted"
Rescuers are searching for up to 20 children thought to have been buried by a mudslide that engulfed a school in the state of Puebla.

Another 20 to 40 people are reported to have been trapped in the building, which they were using as a makeshift shelter when the mudslide struck.

Towns and villages have been evacuated, and many people have been left stranded on rooftops waiting for help.

Emergency services are stretched to the limit, with only a few helicopters and boats available to reach the victims.

[ image: Many roads have been swept away by the floods]
Many roads have been swept away by the floods
Local television stations are appealing for those in dry zones to donate food, blankets, clothing and medicines.

The heavy rains arrived in Mexico after drenching large areas of Central America for up to three weeks.

The BBC's Peter Greste: "The recent earthquake has made the ground highly unstable"
The floods there left 74 dead, brought down powerlines, cut roads and contaminated water supplies.

Rescue helicopter crash

In Mexico, Puebla state appears to have been worst hit, and many people are missing.

In the coastal state of Veracruz, state officials reported 17 killed, including three in a rescue helicopter that crashed.

[ image:  ]
Between Monday and Tuesday night, more than 11cm of rain fell on the state capital of Jalpa.

A further seven people were killed in the central state of Hidalgo, after the storms caused a quarry wall to collapse.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar: "More rain is predicted"
In Tabasco's capital, Villahermosa, rising waters carried crocodiles into the streets. Police shot one of the reptiles.

The city of Tulancingo, 100km (60mls) north-east of Mexico City, is under threat from flooding.

A dam is threatening to burst near the city, and 20,000 people have been told to be ready for instant evacuation.

Disease threatens children

Other parts of Central America are now starting to dry out.

But there is a medical emergency as disease takes hold, and the World Food Programme says the loss of some 26,000 hectares of crops is almost certain to create a food crisis as well.

The Nicaraguan president, Arnoldo Aleman, put the flood damage to his country's infrastructure at 10 million dollars. He is to appeal to the international community for help.

Parts of Central America were still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Mitch, last year, which killed 10,000 people.

The latest storms have destroyed some of the rebuilding work and added to the thousands of people who are still relying on the WFP's food distribution network.

The extreme weather conditions are the result of a tropical depression which is hovering over the Gulf of Campeche, in the south of the Gulf of Mexico.

The weather forecast is for more heavy rain in most parts of the region.

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