By Cristina Sanchez Reyes
Mexico City, Sep 10 (EFE).- Ignoring calls to head to shelters as a nearby river continues to rise, hundreds of residents of the central Mexican city of Tula rushed Friday to rescue what remains of their belongings from homes devastated by floods that claimed at least 14 lives.
Streets in this city some 70 km (43 mi) north of the Mexican capital were filled with mattresses, furniture and appliances left covered in mud by nearly 3 m (10 ft) of water.
Leticia Jimenez had to break down the door to enter her parents’ house, located a few blocks from the Tula River, which burst its banks in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Hundreds of homes in the area remain under roughly 2.5 m of water, she told Efe.
And residents’ appeals for help from Mexico’s National Guard to clear debris from the streets have yet to receive a response.
“I know they have a lot to do, but here as well. If we don’t clear this here, the homes of the neighbors behind will be flooded again,” Jimenez said.
The flooding in Tula and the rest of Hidalgo state has affected at least 31,000 people, national Civil Protection chief Laura Velazquez said Thursday.
Residents say they had no warning ahead of the flood.
“I believe they should have told us so all of us could have gotten out,” Rosana Jimenez – Leticia’s sister – said, adding that the water rose to 2 m within the space of less than 30 minutes.
The homes of the Jimenez sisters and most of their extended family are in the center of Tula, not far from the public hospital where 14 patients died in the flooding.
In the wake of the initial flood, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people living along the Tula River to evacuate as the water may continue to rise because authorities have been forced to release water from rain-swelled reservoirs upstream.
Some, however, are unwilling to leave out of fear that their abandoned homes and businesses may be looted.
Jesus Garrido, who lost both his home and the photography studio he owned and operated for 32 years, said that he needs substantial aid from the government.
He and other Tula residents say they have yet to receive any help from authorities despite Lopez Obrador’s assurances that officials have been responding since the “first moments” of the disaster.
Signs of the community organizing to meet immediate needs were visible Friday in central Tula, as some used shovels to clear sewer grates to allow streets to drain more quickly while neighbors distributed food and water.
Resident Eduardo Duran, meanwhile, has put his quad bike to work ferrying people through the flooded streets.
Amid the fear and uncertainty, Duran insists, “we will get Tula out of this.” EFE csr/dr