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Red Cross Helps in Mexico's Flooded South


In Mexico, relief efforts continue in the flooded state of Tabasco and in nearby Chiapas state where a landslide destroyed a village Sunday. Among the various disaster response teams in the flood zone in southern Mexico, one of the biggest is the Red Cross. VOA's Greg Flakus spoke with one Red Cross worker from the United States who is now in Tabasco and filed this report.

Tens of thousands of people remain in government shelters in Tabasco and many more have left the state, seeking help with relatives and friends in nearby states. But relief from the floods is hard to find in neighboring Chiapas state, where heavy rains are producing similar problems. Some 200 homes were lost in one small town in Chiapas after a rain-drenched hillside collapsed.

Relief teams went to the area from the operations center in Villahermosa, Tabasco, where Red Cross worker Winnie Romeril spoke to VOA by telephone.

"Initially they were reporting very large numbers of people who might have died or who were missing, but at this time we have a list of only 26 missing people," said Winnie Romeril. "What is going on now is that they have finished evacuating the people from that particular village and now they are continuing to try to contact isolated settlements that are in the same area and in danger of possible additional landslides because it continues to rain there."

Romeril says the weather has improved in much of Tabasco, but Chiapas is at a higher elevation, so water from rains there flows down the Grijalva river into the already flooded lowlands of Tabasco.

Winnie Romeril is a US Red Cross worker who was sent down to Mexico to assist the Mexican Red Cross, known in Spanish as Cruz Roja, which she says has been doing a remarkable job. She has spent much of the past few days bringing relief supplies by helicopter to people left stranded by the flood waters.

"The communities that I visited have been really grateful for assistance," he said. "Sometimes the helicopters are not able to land. It is just an island community with people that run out to meet the helicopter. They know that we will be dropping the boxes and bottles of water out of the helicopter and they wade out in the water to catch them. Other times we are able to find a little strip of land and we can put the helicopter down and we can offload and have a discussion with the people and see what other needs they have."

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has called the flooding in southern Mexico one of the worst disasters in his nation's modern history. He has sent more than seven thousand soldiers and federal police to Tabasco to assist in relief efforts and in maintaining order.

US Ambassador Tony Garza has provided $300,000 in immediate disaster assistance to the stricken areas of Mexico. In a message, he said, "Americans know only too well the horrible impact of such natural disasters on the lives of individuals and communities." In 2005, Mexico sent around 200 unarmed soldiers and medical personnel to assist people in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.

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