With a low, rumbling roar, an arc of dirt, rock and mud tumbled down the hillside Monday in the remote mountain village of La Pintada, sweeping houses in its path, burying half the hamlet and leaving 68 people missing in its mad race to the riverbed below.
It was the biggest known tragedy caused by twin weekend storms that struck Mexico, creating floods and landslides across the nation and killing at least 97 people as of Thursday.
Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said soldiers have recovered two bodies in La Pintada and continued to dig through the mud. He said the work has been difficult because water still is running down hills in the area, and there is risk of more landslides.
The missing from La Pintada were not yet included in the official national death toll of 97, according to Mexico’s federal Civil Protection coordinator, Luis Felipe Puente. Some 35,000 homes across the country were damaged or destroyed. Chong said he now had a list of names of 68 missing La Pintada residents, but suggested that some may be alive and may have taken refuge in neighboring ranches or hamlets.
Government photos show major mudslides and collapsed bridges on key highways, including the Highway of the Sun, a major four-lane expressway that links Acapulco to Mexico City. All the main arteries to the Pacific Coast resort town remained closed Thursday.
Manuel, the same storm that devastated Acapulco, gained hurricane force and rolled into the northern state of Sinaloa on Thursday morning before starting to weaken, falling again to tropical storm strength. It would continue to spread heavy rains inland, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.