In Mexico's worst floods for a century, the medium-sized town of Irapuato, 340 kilometres (212 miles) northwest of Mexico City, has become a tragic point.
AV PAN Flooded landscape
SV PAN Refugees rummaging in wrecked buildings (2 shots)
SV Elderly couple cross flooded street
SV Wreckage and rubble, overturned car (4 shots)
SV PAN Refugees with belongings in ruined house
Initials BB/1737 NL/PN/BB/1748
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: In Mexico's worst floods for a century, the medium-sized town of Irapuato, 340 kilometres (212 miles) northwest of Mexico City, has become a tragic point. Of its population of 180,000, at least half became homeless refugees, and sixty per cent of the town was destroyed when floodwaters broke through a nearby dam and came crashing down on it.
Visiting the devastated area, Mexican Defence Minister General Hermenegildo Cuenca said it was certain that at least 200 people has died in Irapuato. President Luis Echeverria promised that the town would be rebuilt within four months.
There are immediate problems of disease and hunger. A mass vaccination campaign is being conducted by the Ministry of Health and the Army is setting up field kitchens for the refugees. There have been incidents of looting and people in Irapuato were reported to be hunting in the streets for dead animals to eat.
Altogether, throughout Mexico, some 300,000 are homeless. One hundred bodies have been recovered and 300 missing are being sought. 15,000 people are still isolated by the floods. And though in Irapuato and most of the North and Centre of the country the waters are receding, there is a threat that the 75-m.p.h. (120 km.p.h.) Hurricane Brenda will launch a second onslaught on the South-east.
Tens of millions of pounds sterling worth of crops and livestock have been destroyed: so extensive is the overall damage that it cannot yet be calculated.
SYNOPSIS: When this huge dam burst last week under pressure from a flood-swollen river it sent a seven-foot (two-metre) wall of water crashing onto the neighbouring town of Irapuato.
At least sixty per cent of the city was destroyed and half of its one hundred and eighty thousand population became refugees. Irapuato has become a tragic focal point of Mexico's worst floods for a century -- in which more than a quarter of a million people have lost their homes and several hundred have died. The death toll in this town alone is two hundred.
Mexican President Luis Echeverria has promised that the city will be rebuilt within four months, but it will take longer for the trail of devastation across the north and centre of the country to be repaired. No estimate has yet been made of the damage. And in the southeast, there is danger that a second strike by Hurricane Brenda will unleash further ruin.
Meanwhile, as the waters recede in Irapuato, refugees search for their lost belongings. Food and drinking water are scarce and some were reported hunting for animal carcasses to eat. Gastric disease has broken out and the death toll may still rise.