Scores still missing; toll could reach 200
LA PINTADA, Mexico – Rescuers fighting tons of slippery, wet mud at the site of this week’s worst storm disaster unearthed the bodies of two women Saturday, possibly among the 68 people missing in a massive landslide that buried half of the remote coffee-growing town of La Pintada.
Houses were filled to their roofs with dirt and vehicles were tossed on their sides when the hillside collapsed Monday after several days of rain brought by Tropical Storm Manuel, which along with Hurricane Ingrid gave Mexico a one-two punch last weekend.
“As of today, there is little hope now that we will find anyone alive,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said after touring the devastation, adding that the landslide covered at least 40 homes.
Pena Nieto told survivors that La Pintada, a town of 800, would be relocated and rebuilt in a safer location as officials responded to a wave of criticism that negligence and corruption were to blame for the vast devastation caused by two relatively weak storm systems.
“I will come to inaugurate a new La Pintada,” he said. “That’s a promise I’m making today to this community, which has undergone such a misfortune.”
Authorities on Saturday also found the wreckage of a Federal Police helicopter that was working on the La Pintada rescue when it went missing nearby on Thursday. All aboard died, five federal police, according to local media. A security spokesman could not confirm the number on board.
Ingrid and Manuel simultaneously pounded both of Mexico’s coasts, killing at least 101 people, not including the helicopter crash victims or the 68 missing. Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong told Mexican media the death toll could go as high as 200 in the coming days, nearing that of Hurricane Paulina, which hit Guerrero state in 1997 and caused one of Mexico’s worst storm disasters.