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Warning signs came before landslide in Oaxaca

September 28, 2010 |  1:32 pm

Bridge river oaxaca

Residents of the remote village in the Mexican state of Oaxaca where a landslide swept away several hundred homes early Tuesday had warned of the precariousness of the rain-soaked hillsides. On Sept. 13, the newspaper OaxacaHoy reported that earth was already pressing into the walls of some homes in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, where, between 2 and 4 a.m. today, a mountainside gave way and slammed into about 300 homes (link in Spanish).

"The humidity and softening of the earth is generating signs of sinking in the hill," OaxacaHoy said. "Due to the unevenness, homes are showing cracks and there is fear a tragedy could occur in the area."

Rescue workers were still struggling to reach the remote village on Tuesday afternoon. Flooding, persistent fog and rain, as well as previous mudslides, are blocking roads up into the Mixe mountain region, where Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec is located.

The first word of the landslide came from a resident who used a satellite phone to call Oaxacan civil protection officials just before dawn. State authorities have so far confirmed seven dead, but little else is known about exactly how many people are missing. A bridge connecting Oaxaca City with the affected area is on the brink of collapsing, further hampering the rescue efforts (links in Spanish).

Much of southern and eastern Mexico as well as Central America have been battered by unusually heavy seasonal rain and several major storms, including Hurricane Karl and Tropical Storm Matthew. Elsewhere in Oaxaca in recent days, at least two rivers have overflown, the Espiritu Santo and Los Perros (links in Spanish).

On Tuesday, a bridge connecting Oaxaca City to its airport had also been shut down because of rain damage (link in Spanish).

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Motorists and rescue workers are stranded at a weakened bridge on the Macuiltxochitl River in Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit: El Universal