Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Mexican floods: 'Death by a thousand cuts'
A child contemplates the ruins of a house in Puebla
By Peter Greste in Zacatlan, Mexico
"Death by a thousand cuts," was the way one of President Ernesto Zedillo's aides described the fate of Mexicans living in the south central highlands.
Almost three weeks after the worst flooding in four decades swamped southern Mexico, many towns and villages still have not received any food, water or medical supplies.
There have been a few major floods and mudslides, like the one at Tezuitlan that killed as many as 100 people; but there are literally thousands of other small landslides that have each caused their own problems.
In one place, a farmer's dam has burst; it missed his house but wiped out the crop he had hoped would get his family through the coming winter.
In another, a collapsed dirt bank blocks the roads linking a dozen villages with their markets; and further along, erosion has undermined three houses.
They are still standing, but their owners have left; it is only a matter of time before they turn into piles of matchwood.
No food, no water
Alone, each problem is not significant, but, multiplied thousands of times across the country, it amounts to a disaster of major proportions.
But the desperation of villagers is now clear. On his tour around the Ahuacatlan district, dozens of villagers broke through the security cordon to beg the president for help.
"We've got nothing to eat, we need food and medicine for our children," said one woman in tears.
Cholera and dysentery are spreading and respiratory infections are rife.
Without that, there is a real limit to what aid the government can deliver, even with helicopters.
The president's entourage was forced to abandon their helicopters on a remote mountain-top.
Dense fog made it impossible to fly, and even more bad weather is forecast.