Mexicans braced for more rain chaos

People swim on the streets of Culiacan, in Sinaloa state. Picture: Reuters
People swim on the streets of Culiacan, in Sinaloa state. Picture: Reuters
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More rain has lashed Mexico’s north-west coast, forcing evacuations and swelling flash floods that have killed at least 97 people.

Storms have inundated vast areas of Mexico since the weekend, wrecking roads, destroying bridges and triggering landslides that buried homes and their occupants.

In the Pacific resort of Acapulco, roads became raging torrents, stranding some 40,000 tourists. Dozens of people from a nearby village were reported missing after a mudslide.

Emergency services said heavy rains were battering the north-west state of Sinaloa and hundreds of people had been evacuated from coastal towns.

President Enrique Peña Nieto announced he was cancelling a trip to the United Nations in New York, next week, to focus on leading the relief efforts.

“The rainfall in the last few days has been the most intense registered in history over an extended area in Mexico,” Mr Peña Nieto said in Guerrero, Acapulco’s home state.

The rain has eased in some areas, but more may be coming, forecasters warn. The US National Hurricane Centre said an area of low pressure over the southern Gulf of Mexico had a 50 per cent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours and could dump heavy rains on already flooded areas.

The risk of more downpours comes after tropical storms Ingrid and Manuel converged on Mexico from the Gulf and the Pacific over the weekend, triggering the flash floods. Ingrid dissipated, but Manuel became a hurricane before being downgraded again. Late on Thursday, Manuel had weakened into a low-pressure area in western Mexico that could still produce up to two inches of rain.

More than one million people have been affected across Mexico, and 50,000 have been evacuated from their homes.

“It’s raining really heavily. I saw lots of fallen trees on my way to work,” said Cristian Nunez, 26, a hotel receptionist in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa, which Manuel hit on Thursday. “Many employees didn’t make it in … we’re basically alone.”

Winds blew the roofs off houses, and 11 rivers in the mountainous state broke their banks. Residents waded through chest-high waters in some areas.

Further south in flooded Acapulco, which has been hit by looting, the beach resort was still reeling. Thousands of people remained trapped, awaiting evacuation as airlines and the army worked to get them home.

National emergency services reported that 97 deaths had been confirmed across Mexico.

Interior minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said 68 people were still missing after a mudslide in a remote village in Atoyac de Alvarez, north-west of Acapulco. The government said 288 people had been rescued from the site, with about 20 bodies found there so far.

Hotels in the northern Baja California Sur, home to the resorts of Los Cabos, popular with US tourists, reported rain on Wednesday, but nothing like the conditions in Acapulco.

The finance ministry said it has 12 billion pesos (£590 million) in emergency relief funds, but could be hard-pressed to cope as it attempts to prime-pump economic growth.