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Mexico Rushes Aid to Victims of Storms in Hurricane's Wake

September 30, 1993|PATRICK J. McDONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities rushed relief Wednesday to tens of thousands of citizens left homeless or otherwise affected by torrential rains and flooding along a vast, four-state swath of territory stretching inland from the Gulf Coast.

The flooding is the destructive aftermath of Hurricane Gert, which ravaged the area last week.

Gert has dissipated, but ensuing downpours have continued to wreak havoc in the area, destroying homes and forcing the tens of thousands to flee. The Red Cross attributed at least 35 deaths in the four states to the storm and its aftermath, while unconfirmed news accounts put the toll above 60.

"The situation is very grave," said Commander Salvador Padilla of the Mexican Red Cross, who heads a national disaster committee. "Unfortunately, we're expecting more rain."

Thousands of soldiers were mobilized to help rescue, relocation and cleanup efforts. From Mexico City, authorities shipped almost 500 tons of food, 13 cases of medicine and other supplies to the flooded areas.

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari toured the flood-damaged area Wednesday, promising up to $35 million in additional assistance and outlining a broad plan for medical attention, repair and emergency employment in the four-state area.

Hardest hit, authorities said, are the Gulf states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, where more than 20,000 people have been forced to evacuate. The Rio Panuco, a major river that runs through both states, flooded hundreds of houses along its banks.

Overall, authorities estimated that more than 85,000 people have been made homeless or suffered damage to their homes. Crops on tens of thousands of acres throughout the area have been destroyed.

The storm also caused widespread power and telephone outages, while landslides blocked numerous roads in hard-hit zones.

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