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Mudslides bring more misery to Mexico

Storms and torrential rain continue to heap misery on Mexico. On Wednesday, a hill collapsed around the remote town of Amatan in the state of Chiapas. 16 people were killed (8 adults and 8 children) in this poor coffee-growing area.

This tragedy followed another landslide the previous day in the next door state of Oaxaca, another coffee-producing region. A mudslide hit the small town of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec at 4 am local time while people slept. 11 people (8 children and 3 adults) have been declared dead or missing in the town, which is a tourist destination for its old colonial buildings and archaeological sites. Lying high in the Sierra Juarez mountain range of central Oaxaca, this is the heartland of the indigenous Mixe Indian people and one of Mexico’s poorest regions.

After initial fears that many more might have been killed in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, a large rescue team struggled to reach the affected area. It took 10 hours for soldiers, police and firefighters to access this remote part of the state. The rescue workers had to arrive on foot, following a collapsed bridge and roads blocked with rocks and mud. Officials in the town said the area was in chaos, with no electricity and no sign when the rains might come to an end. A representative of Oaxaca’s coffee growers said it was too early for an accurate assessment on the damage to crops, but estimated that if the rains continued, as much as a fifth of the harvest could be lost. In the meantime, the government has ordered an evacuation of the 9,000 people in the community in case of further mudslides.

Some areas of Mexico have endured their worst rainy season on record, with heavy rains and flooding forcing thousands to leave their homes. And the deadly mudslides of recent days follow a series of other tragic incidents. Eight people were killed outside Mexico City in September as workers tried to clear a road and were hit by another landslide. And when Hurricane Karl struck earlier in the month, 15 people were killed in the port city of Veracruz. In July, the first storm of the season, Hurricane Alex, left six people dead in the city of Monterrey.

With so many deaths, thousands of families evacuated and millions more affected by the weather, the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, called on the international community to recognize that global warming exists. The president was attending an energy forum being held ahead of UN climate talks scheduled in Cancun, eastern Mexico in November. The President used the occasion to urge action on global initiatives to cut greenhouse gases. If any world leaders doubted the affects of climate change, the president urged them to “go see some families in Mexico who have lost everything.”

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