LA PINTADA, Mexico – Fourteen hours per body.
That’s how long search crews with shovels, hydraulic equipment – anything they can muster – are averaging to find the victims of a massive landslide that took half the remote coffee-growing village of La Pintada, leaving 68 people missing.
The Mexican army’s emergency response and rescue team slogged in several feet of mud and incessant rain with rescue dogs, recovering a total of five bodies as of Sunday.
Lt. Carlos Alberto Mendoza, commander of the 16-soldier team, said it’s the most daunting situation he’s seen in 24 years with the army.
La Pintada was the scene of the single-greatest tragedy in destruction wreaked by the twin storms, Manuel and Ingrid, which simultaneously pounded both of Mexico’s coasts a week ago, spawning huge floods and landslides across a third of the country. The official death toll grew to 115 on Sunday, Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong said.
“As of today, there is little hope now that we will find anyone alive,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said after touring the devastation at La Pintada, adding that the landslide covered at least 40 homes.
The storms affected 24 of Mexico’s 31 states and 371 municipalities, which are the equivalent of counties. More than 58,000 people were evacuated, with 43,000 taken to shelters.