Record floods leave a million Mexicans homeless

A A A

One million people made homeless by the worst floods in Mexico's history are bracing themselves for an even greater disaster today. Rivers are continuing to rise in the low-lying state of Tabasco and more heavy rains are forecast.

Four-fifths of the state, on the Gulf of Mexico, are already under up to 20 feet of water after a week of torrential rains. The largely abandoned capital, Villahermosa, resembles New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with only a few rooftops poking out of the muddy waters.

"The level of disaster just keeps growing," said Edgar Rosas, who works for the Red Cross in the capital. Supplies of food, fuel, medicine and drinking water are running low, and the country's Deputy Health Secretary, Mauricio Hernandez, has warned of the spread of cholera and other diseases.

But the escalating Mexican crisis is only the worst of a series of inundations around the world this weekend in what has been a particularly bad year, as global warming takes hold.

At least 122 people are dead in Haiti and the Dominican Republic after flooding caused by Hurricane Noel, the deadliest Atlantic storm of the year. At least 18 more have been killed in Vietnam in the third serious inundation within a month. UN officials say that this year has seen a record number of disasters so far, with scores of millions of people affected in the Indian subcontinent and more than 20 African countries.

Marshy, oil-rich Tabasco is used to flooding, but never as bad as this. Mexico's Interior Minister, Francisco Ramirez, admitted yesterday that the extent of the disaster had taken the government by surprise. The state Governor, Andres Granier, said: "We are fighting a monster."

He added: "All the crops have been lost, the state's industries are under water, and local broadcasters can't transmit information without electricity. New Orleans was small compared to this."

In all, some 850 towns have been flooded, 150 hospitals and clinics are out of action, and half of the entire country's oil production has been shut down. The country's President, Felipe Calderon, has ordered the entire air force to fly supplies into – and people out of – the disaster area. Stranded survivors are being rescued from rooftops by helicopters or boats, or are trying to swim to safety through snake-infested waters.

The official death toll, optimistically, stood at one yesterday, but this is expected to rise precipitously; hundreds of people are already reported missing.

The flooding began when heavy rainfall swelled the Grijalva, Carrizal and Puxcatan rivers, causing them to burst their banks. By Friday night, the Grijalva was more than two feet above its highest recorded level. It is continuing to rise, and more heavy rain is forecast. There is further flooding in the neighbouring state of Chiapas.

In the Caribbean, islanders are clearing up after the devastation of Hurricane Noel, which was heading up the coast of North America towards Nova Scotia yesterday after killing at least 79 people in the Dominican Republic and another 43 in Haiti. The US Coastguard warned shipping off the country's east coast to get into port, and construction sites in New York city were instructed to batten down their equipment.

Across the world, rivers have risen to record levels this year. In Vietnam, further heavy rains have raised the death toll from flooding since the beginning of October to 132.

This year has already seen Africa's worst-ever floods, which affected 1.5 million people in 22 countries, while the UN estimates that a staggering 66 million have been hit in south Asia so far.

In all, there have been more than 100 disastrous floods – including Britain's summer inundations – around the world this year. Sir John Holmes, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator, said that, put together, they amount to a "mega-disaster", adding: "We are seeing the effects of climate change."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own