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Environment News: A Plague of WaterSalem-News.com
“In Mexico, water that is sorely lacking is now a threat because of official negligence”- Columnist Ivan Restrepo.
(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) -
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Alex slammed northeastern Mexico, clean-up is far from complete. Thousands of people are still trapped in isolated communities, unable to return to their homes or otherwise attempting to restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives. And with the hurricane season barely underway, Mexican and US authorities say they will keep an eye on the carrying capacity of more than a half-dozen dams, some of which topped capacity in recent days.
While damage estimates are still in the preliminary stages, hundreds of thousands of people suffered from the storm and its after-effects in the northern border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila.
Mexican Economy Minister Ernesto Cordero vowed the Calderon administration will step up to the plate and make available money from the Fonden disaster relief fund.
“As always the federal government will give support,” Cordero said. “To begin with, you have to wait for the water to go down. You can’t calculate damages as long as there is still flooding.”
According to Economy Ministry official Miguel Maron Manzur, at least 3,700 businesses sustained losses in the three affected states. Maron said the federal government will make initial payments of $1,200 available to eligible enterprises, and establish a larger line of credit for victims.
Recaredo Arias, director general of the Mexican Association of Insurance Agencies, said insurers expect to pay for at least 7,000 automobiles, homes and businesses. Arias did not have a firm estimate of monetary damages, but said they would likely be less than the $2 billion in losses blamed on Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
In Tamaulipas, nearly 360,000 people were seriously impacted by Alex, with almost 18,000 people forced to seek refuge in emergency shelters. Watching 124 neighborhoods submerged in water, the border city of Matamoros experienced some of the worst flooding. Six people were reported killed in Tamaulipas, with two others injured and one disappeared.
To stave off a dengue outbreak, Tamaulipas state health authorities began fumigating 43 municipalities. Disrupting commerce between Mexico and the United States, the storm idled thousands of trucks in the key export-import center of Nuevo Laredo, as the rising waters of the Rio Grande forced evacuations on both sides of the border.
Calamity befell the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon, where 2,000 people were displaced in the municipality of Anahuac near Nuevo Laredo, and where roads, bridges, hydraulic infrastructure, electricity service, Internet connections, schools and businesses were disrupted, destroyed or damaged. The industrial city of Monterrey, population four million, was especially hard hit.
“Monterrey is in a state of collapse because of the strongest weather phenomenon in its history,” said Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz. Observers compared the destruction in Monterrey to the devastation of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and the 1909 flooding of the Santa Catarina River that passes through the metropolitan zone. Approximately $600 million in damages were reported in the Monterrey area alone.
In a July 13 statement, the Monterrey Convention and Visitors Bureau said the city’s main commercial, entertainment and hospitality districts were open for business, as were the international airport and bus station. The Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey freeway was expected to be open for traffic by July 15, the Bureau said.
Dan Perrone, acting US Counsel General, said the Obama administration was planning to send relief to Mexico, partly in gratitude for Mexico’s assistance to the US after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
On July 13, the US Department of State announced the US had sent $100,000 and assigned five personnel from the US Agency for International Development to pitch in with the recovery campaign. US civil society also activated, when residents of Del Rio, Texas, delivered 400 packages of basic necessities to their sister city of Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila.
Located farthest away from the Gulf of Mexico, the inland desert state of Coahuila did not escape the rainy wrath of Alex. Approximately 2500 homes were affected in the border cities of Ciudad Acuna and Piedras Negras.
Tragedy struck July 7 when a small plane carrying officials inspecting the disaster zone went down. Piedras Negras Mayor Jose Manuel Maldonado and Coahuila State Secretary of Public Works Homero del Bosque Davila were among the six victims who lost their lives in the crash. In all, 20 people were reported killed in Coahuila.
Alex jarred a region of Mexico which was already on edge from a narco-war which has left hundreds dead and entire towns in jitters since last February. Indeed, the storm only slightly slowed the violence.
On July 11, the bodies of five men accompanied by an attached warning from a purported vigilante-style group were discovered in Monterrey; the following day, the corpses of 12 execution victims were found near Matamoros.
Jorge Lera Mejia, director of the League of Revolutionary Economists in Tamaulipas, warned that Alex would have detrimental repercussions on the summer tourist season, as a public already wary of traveling because of violence must now also clean up homes and put up with damaged roads.
While officials promised aid and dispatched the Mexican army to steer emergency relief, a prominent Mexican environmentalist criticized the disaster as a fatal combination of poor urban planning, poverty, deforestation, infrastructure neglect, political corruption, and misguided economic development policies.
“In Mexico, water that is sorely lacking is now a threat because of official negligence,” wrote columnist Ivan Restrepo. “(Water) is the worst of evils.”
Alex-like outcomes have also upturned communities in the states of Mexico, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Tabasco following rains and storms in recent years, Restrepo added. On a Coahuila visit this week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon observed some of the irregular settlements Restrepo criticized. The Mexican leader encountered makeshift settlements established in environmentally risky zones of Piedras Negras and San Juan de Sabinas.
Flooding also struck south Texas, prompting evacuations and emergency measures in Laredo, Roma, Rio Grande City and Los Ebanos.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico
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