Disasters & Accidents

Thousands anxious about leaving their flooded homes in SE Mexico

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes Gomez

Tenejapa, Mexico, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- With some of their belongings on their backs, thousands of families in Mexico’s southeastern states of Chiapas and Tabasco have abandoned their homes after the torrential rains that have inundated the region, causing severe flooding and at least 27 deaths.

Tropical Storm Eta and Cold Front No. 11 dumped enormous quantities of rain in the region and in Central America, forcing many people to flee their homes for their own safety.

In Chiapas, one of the country’s poorest states, there are more than 6,876 families who were forced to leave their homes – and about 10,000 who suffered some kind of property damage – in 54 municipalities, according to the Chiapas Civil Protection agency.

Despite the fact that the damage evaluation has concluded, for the local indigenous people in the area the tragedy is not over since in various spots where the Tzotzil and Tzeltal people live landslides and mudslides are ongoing.

Because of that, hundreds of Tzeltals are fleeing their homes.

That is the situation in Matzam, a community belonging to the Tenejapa de los Altos municipality in Chiapas, where more than 70 homes were made uninhabitable due to the collapse of part of a mountainside.

Juan Luna Lopez, a Matzam resident, told EFE on Wednesday that after the rains he heard a rumbling that came from the hillside flanking the town, and over the course of a few days the ground began to split and crack.

“Houses are being buried. We’re leaving the house because we’re afraid of being inside. Everything’s getting smashed and torn up. I’m going to get my family to safety, I’m going to seek shelter with a relative. Have the authorities come? Nobody’s come, and no help,” he said as he hurried to finish packing up the things they were taking with them.

For the past 12 days, according to what local residents have said, the rain has not let up. It was last Sunday morning that the wet conditions completed the collapse of a part of the mountainside, destroying a number of wood and concrete homes and forcing those residents to seek refuge kilometers away.

Elias Lopez Luna, another Matzam resident, asked for help from the federal authorities because, he said, no state official has helped them.

“The call I’d like to make to the authorities is for them to come back to see this area where more than 70 families were affected,” he said.

The concern underlies everything, Elias said, because the noise and the slippage of the hillside has put everyone on alert.

“Nobody’s been able to sleep out of fear since last Saturday. Because of lack of knowledge, many think it’s a volcano and they continue to think that because there’s no real, verifiable information from those who study these phenomena,” he said.

It’s been six days since the first incidents, when families began fleeing the area. Along the highway, one can see women and children leaving their homes with their belongings on their backs seeking shelter elsewhere.

The rain is still coming down on the soaked ground, too, and the land is sinking little by little. In this village, another 30 families are expected to evacuate and they’re clamoring for help from the Mexican government.

According to figures provided last Monday by the CNPC civil protection agency, the heavy rains have affected 184,191 people in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz.

In all, five people have died in Tabasco and 22 in Chiapas, although the Chiapas Civil Protection agency reports the local death toll to be 21.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard on Tuesday thanked Spain for its “solidarity” after Madrid contributed $300,000 to support the homeless in the region affected by Eta.

Other countries, like Germany and Denmark, have also sent donations.

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