Mexico government admits it flooded plain which left tens of thousands homeless

Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has admitted his government deliberately chose to flood large areas of Tabasco state last week in an attempt to protect the regional capital

Chris Havler-Barrett
In Mexico City
Monday 16 November 2020 18:02 GMT
Floods following heavy rains in Villahermosa, Mexico, 13 November 2020. (EPA/Jaime Avalos)
Floods following heavy rains in Villahermosa, Mexico, 13 November 2020. (EPA/Jaime Avalos) (EPA)
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The Mexican government has admitted it took the decision to release unusually large amounts of water from a dam in the south of the country, which has left thousands of people homeless.

Water was discharged from the Peñitas dam following flooding caused by Hurricane Eta, but it has been claimed that the decision left tens of thousands more people homeless than the actual storm. Some 15,000 homes were initially affected by the flooding caused by Eta, but local authorities believe as many as 72,000 people have now been left homeless. 

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday that he understood the decision would cause harm but was taken anyway. “They are Chontales [Indigenous Tabascans], the poorest, but we had to make a decision,” he said.

“We had to make a decision between two inconvenient options – to avoid flooding Villahermosa and cause the water to run out through Samaria, to the low-lying areas” he continued.  

The admission of responsibility came during a video-briefing as the Mexican president flew over the troubled dam, demonstrating the now much-reduced levels of water inside. He also said that the flow of water had been greatly reduced. “I am currently flying over the Peñitas dam. You can see how much lower the levels are,” he told viewers.

“This means less water on the plains of Tabasco, less flooding for Tabasco.”

Despite the president’s words, it is clear that in some areas, the water remains exceptionally deep.

Lopez Obrador also announced the creation of a Grijalva Commission, which aims to prevent a repeat of the devastating floods. The commission will assume direct control of the chain of hydroelectric dams that were responsible for many of the problems faced during the aftermath of the hurricane.

The governor of Tabasco state, Adán Augusto Lopez Hernandez had previous called upon the Federal government to ensure that they took “responsible for any damages and losses that the people and property of the citizens of Tabasco may suffer”.

Meanwhile, Mexican social media has been alight with dramatic footage of a rescue of a dog by the Mexican Navy. The freezing cold and scared labrador, who was filmed clinging to an almost submerged upper balcony, was successfully rescued by marines, and taken into care.  

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