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One Million People Displaced by Mexico Flooding

Around a million people have now fled their homes in the flooded state of Tabasco in southern Mexico and more rain is expected in the already saturated area. Eight people have died in the disaster and authorities are struggling to assist victims in shelters as well as those who remain stranded. Meanwhile, Mexican authorities say a landslide triggered by flooding in the southern state of Chiapas has buried dozens of homes in San Juan Grijalva. At least 15 people are feared missing. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

Dozens of Mexican military helicopters are flying food and clean water to relief centers in Tabasco and assisting efforts to locate and rescue people who remain stranded in their homes by the flood waters. Hundreds of thousands of people have either taken shelter in relief centers or have fled to other parts of the country.

But there are also thousands of people who remain at home.

Red Cross worker Ruben Padron told Mexico's Televisa Television network about efforts to help them.

He says the Red Cross is running two types of operations in the flooded areas, one is to help people stranded by high water and the other is to bring food and water to people who have chosen to stay in their homes in order to protect their property.

In many cases, people have taken refuge on the second floor of a home. Police are also patrolling the flooded streets of the Tabasco state capital of Villahermosa and other towns to stop looters. But displaced resident Daniel Hernandez says thieves are active throughout the area.

He says he has seen looters breaking into homes and businesses, prying open security doors and barriers to gain access to the abandoned properties.

In some cases, looters are said to be searching for food, but witnesses have seen them carrying off other items, including televisions and stereo systems. Authorities warn that looting is unacceptable and thieves will be punished. But officials are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people displaced by the flooding and the vast area they need to patrol.

In addition to the security problem, officials are concerned about public health. The contaminated flood waters are unsafe to drink, but many stranded people may have no other option if relief workers are unable to bring them bottled water.

The standing water also contributes to an increase in disease-carrying mosquitoes from which people stranded on rooftops or open balconies have little protection.

Agriculture, a principle source of income in the state, has been devastated by the flooding. A local farm association estimates $480 million in losses. The principal crops in Tabasco include bananas, rice, beans and corn.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has toured the area by helicopter and has called the flood one of the worst disasters ever to hit his country. He has also pledged to do whatever is necessary to rebuild Tabasco once the flooding is over.