Over 100 killed and dozens missing following massive floods and landslides in Mexico
SOLDIERS dug through tons of mud and dirt in search of victims of a massive landslide, as Mexican authorities looked for a police helicopter that went missing while carrying out relief operations on the flood-stricken Pacific coast.
The helicopter with three crew members on board was returning from the remote mountain village of La Pintada, where the mudslide occurred, when it went missing on Thursday. There is still no sign of it, said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.
"They risked their lives all the time," he said. "We are truly worried."
Using picks and shovels, soldiers and farmers removed dirt and rock from on top of the cement or corrugated-metal roofs of houses looking for bodies in the community north of Acapulco, where 68 people were reported missing following Monday's slide.
Two bodies have been recovered, but it was unclear if they were among those on the list of missing.
Late last night, President Enrique Pena Nieto announced that the confirmed death toll from the flooding and landslides brought by the twin weekend storms of Manuel and Ingrid had risen to 101 from 97. The figure does not include the 68 missing.
He said they have evacuated 58,000 tourists from Acapulco in Guerrero state and will continue to fly people out of the resort until tomorrow when they expect its airport to be functioning again.
"Guerrero has been the state with the biggest damage and that's why I will remain here, I will be here this weekend," said Mr Pena Nieto.
Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre said authorities still have not been able to reach two mountain communities because of bad weather.
Police have been helping move emergency supplies and aid victims of Tropical Storm Manuel, which washed out bridges and collapsed highways throughout the area, cutting Acapulco off by land.
At least 500,000 residents of the resort city did not have running water, authorities said.
The country's Transportation Department said that a patchwork connection of roads leading to Mexico City had been partially reopened around noon yesterday.
Part of the main highway, however, remains blocked by collapsed tunnels and mudslides, so drivers were being moved to a smaller road that is in better shape on some stretches.
Thousands of cars, trucks and buses lined up at the edge of Acapulco, waiting to get out of the flood- and shortage-stricken city.
Survivors of the La Pintada landslide staying at a shelter in Acapulco told how a tidal wave of dirt, rocks and trees exploded off the hill, burying families in their homes and sweeping wooden houses into the swollen river that winds past the village on its way to the Pacific.
"Everyone who could ran into the coffee fields. It smothered the homes and sent them into the river. Half the homes in town were smothered and buried," said Marta Alvarez, 22, who was cooking with her two-year-old son, two brothers and parents when the landslide struck.
La Pintada was the scene of the single greatest tragedy in destruction wreaked by the twin storms, which simultaneously pounded both of Mexico's coasts, spawning huge floods and landslides across hundreds of miles of coastal and inland areas.
Mr Pena Nieto said he was cancelling a trip to New York for the annual UN General Assembly because of the emergency.
US Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Mexico City for a meeting yesterday with Mr Pena Nieto, offered help in flood recovery and relief efforts.