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Mexican Town Evacuated Amid Fears Dam Will Burst
email this pageprint this pageemail usJorge Vargas - Associated Press
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July 06, 2010

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico About 18,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from a town in northern Mexico where authorities fear a dam will overflow in the wake of Hurricane Alex.

Evacuees were taken to shelters in nearby towns and cities, Ciudad Anahuac Mayor Santos Garza Garcia said.

The Venustiano Carranza dam, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) away, has reached capacity after days of heavy rains, including remnants of Hurricane Alex, which slammed into Mexico's northern Gulf coast last week.

Garza said 12 floodgates have been opened but authorities have not been able to open 17 others because of electrical failures. He said the dam, is releasing 600 cubic meters per second into the Salado River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, and could overflow Tuesday afternoon.

"The situation is very critical," Garza said at a news conference.

Hurricane Alex caused severe flooding in northeastern Mexico and swelled several rivers that feed into the dam. It has continued raining in the region.

At least 35 families arrived in shelters in Nuevo Laredo, a border town north of Ciudad Anahuac.

Officials were also evacuating 2,000 people near the swollen Rio Escondido river in the region, said Piedras Negras Mayor Jose Manuel Maldonado.

At 12 people were killed last week during the storm, said Gov. Rodrigo Medina of Nuevo Leon state, where Ciudad Anahuac is located. Three people are missing.

At least 130,000 people remain without water, and that does not count some communities in mountainous regions that were cut off, Medina de la Cruz told Televisa network.

He appealed for helicopters to help reach isolated communities with water and other supplies.

Alex caused the most damage in Nuevo Leon, though it was down to tropical storm force by the time it hit the inland state.

The key business city of Monterrey saw major streets turned to rampaging rivers that gashed ravines through the pavement down to sewage lines and buried vehicles window deep in rocks and sand.

The storm also damaged rail lines. The state's website says officials hope to have trains running again by Friday through one of Mexico's most important industrial centers.

Medina de la Cruz said damages amounted to 10 billion pesos ($765 million), according preliminary calculations.

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