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Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 01:14 GMT 02:14 UK

World: Americas

Mexico goes it alone

Homes in Villahermosa have been swamped by the rains

Mexico's President Ernesto Zedillo has said the country will cope with its worst natural disaster this decade on its own.

The BBC's John Andrew: "The President has described the disaster as the tragedy of the decade"
Increasingly desperate survivors of the flooding and mudslides in south-eastern Mexico are calling for foreign aid as rescuers retrieve yet more bodies from the mud.

A week of relentless rains across parts of the country has left nearly 400 people dead, and survivors without food or drinking water.

President Zedillo, who has been touring some of the areas left devastated after the worst flooding in years, promised government help for families who lost their homes in mudslides.

Mexico correspondent Peter Greste:"100,000 in emergency shelters"
One woman in the flooded city of Jalapa, in Veracruz state, screamed at the president: "We need food! Ask for foreign aid!"

Some observers said Mr Zedillo was curt with survivors who clamoured around him in the town of Gutierrez Zamora. He told one man foreign aid was unnecessary.

"No sir, the Mexicans can do it alone," he is reported as saying.

Click here to see a map of the area

However, many survivors are calling for more immediate help, saying the disaster has cut off water supplies and roads and left them without food or clean water.

State officials in Hidalgo said that more than 100,000 people there have no access to water or food.

[ image: Rescuers are still searching for villagers buried in Teziutlan]
Rescuers are still searching for villagers buried in Teziutlan
Officials in the municipality of Tenango de Doria said food supplies ran out on Tuesday and the town remains cut off.

At least 450,000 people in Veracruz, Tabasco and Oaxaca states were without electricity. In the Teziutlan municipality, 50,000 people were without drinking water.

Mud and rocks engulfed Teziutlan, in eastern Mexico, on Tuesday, burying up to 80 homes. Rescuers and survivors had pulled 87 bodies from the mud by Saturday morning, but there are fears that many more villagers have been killed.

Victor Zamitiz, regional co-ordinator for the state attorney general's office, said up to 300 people may still be buried in the village, which lies in the mountainous Sierra region of Puebla state.

Schoolchildren perish

Some 60 miles north-west of Teziutlan, in the village of Mixun, rescuers pulled bodies from a primary school that was swallowed by the mud on Wednesday.

[ image: Residents of Villahermosa go in search of food]
Residents of Villahermosa go in search of food
Two teachers, a dozen children and several of their mothers were reported killed when the earth cracked open and swallowed their school.

Although stopping briefly on Friday, the rains began falling again in parts of the south-east late in the day.

The Associated Press said rivers in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state, were continuing to rise on Saturday, flooding some of the few neighbourhoods not already under water.

The US National Weather Service has warned of another threat to Mexico, with Tropical Storm Irwin bringing heavy rains towards four states on the country's Pacific coast.

[ image:  ]

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