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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK

World: Americas

Mexico mudslides claim more lives

Soldiers dig through mud to find people buried in a landslide in Teziutlan

Only 30 of 150 villagers are reported to have survived a huge mudslide during the floods which have ravaged Mexico.

Residents from Acalana, some 90 miles (150km) northeast of Mexico city told Associated Press that the small farming village was swamped in a mudslide last Thursday.

[ image: The collapsed mountainside which buried the remote village of Acalana]
The collapsed mountainside which buried the remote village of Acalana
If the reports are confirmed, it could be the worst single disaster in a week of floods across southeastern Mexico - the most severe to hit the country for 40 years.

Meanwhile, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has postponed a trip to Europe to take personal charge of relief efforts.

His decision comes amid growing public anger over the length of time the government took to get help to the worst-affected areas.

The BBC's Peter Greste: "Officials describe it as a disaster of biblical proportions"
Attempts to find victims of another hillside collapse in Teziutlan, Puebla, continue to be hampered by further rain.

Nearly 100 bodies have been pulled from mounds of mud and flattened homes, with about half of the area still unexcavated.

President Zedillo visited the striken area on Monday, where he hugged rescue workers digging for bodies in the mud.

Residents have complained at the government's inability to mobilise troops.

The army arrived almost 48 hours after the devastating mudslide swept away dozens of homes in a working-class neighbourhood.

Click here to see a map of the area

The floods have brought food and fresh water shortages across the country and made tens of thousands of people homeless.

The BBC's Peter Greste: "Mudslides are still cascading down the mountains"
Nearly 400 people have died, many in mudslides. The threat of disease is growing, and more bad weather is due.

Forecasters say tropical storm Irwin could bring heavy rain to Mexico's Pacific coast.

On Sunday, flood victims took to the streets to protest at the government's handling of the crisis.

Protesters in Lazaro Cardenas opened sandbag barriers and sent a wave of water into the state capital, Villahermosa. Local officials said police arrested 70 people.

Presidential pledge

[ image: President Zedillo talks to Moises Navarro Mendez, right, who lost at least 15 family members in the  Teziutlan mudslide]
President Zedillo talks to Moises Navarro Mendez, right, who lost at least 15 family members in the Teziutlan mudslide
The president has publicly refused offers of international relief, saying his country can cope with the flooding.

He has pledged to send more civilian and military manpower to help the victims.

Opposition politicians have accused him of trying to make political capital out of his people's misery.

A leading government opponent, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the Democratic Revolution Party said the tragedy could have been prevented.

"The damage and loss of human lives could have been avoided," Mr Cardenas was quoted as saying in the Mexican media.

"The government has not assumed its social responsibility in the face of the backward conditions of the country."

In the state of Puebla, a charity marathon was staged to draw attention to the lack of food reaching outlying communities.

One student taking part said what few supplies were reaching the villages were either being hoarded or sold at inflated prices.

[ image:  ]

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