TULA, MEXICO (AFP) - Soldiers and emergency workers battled Wednesday (Sept 8) to help thousands of victims of flooding in central Mexico that led to the deaths of more than a dozen Covid-19 hospital patients.
More than 1,000 National Guard members, troops and rescuers were deployed after a river in the town of Tula in Hidalgo state burst its banks.
The flooding affected about 39,000 residents, with many homes inundated within minutes.
Around 1,000 people were moved to shelters, though some were reluctant to abandon their homes.
Civilians joined the rescue effort, including resident Lauro Cruz, who said he had helped about 40 people.
"Some didn't want to leave for fear of thieves," he said.
"But they agreed to be moved. People in wheelchairs, on stretchers - we took them out," he added.
JMr esus Olguin came to inspect the damage to his small jewelry store. "We were all caught off guard. There was no warning," he said. "We lost a lot."
Fourteen patients at a hospital in Tula died after flooding disrupted the power supply and life-sustaining oxygen treatment, according to the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), which operates the facility.
The authorities had on Tuesday reported up to 17 deaths, but IMSS director Zoe Robledo said that some of them had actually died before the floods struck.
"It was a sad day ... a sudden disaster that in a matter of minutes put an entire city under water, including our hospital," he said in a video posted on social media.
Images showed medical personnel pushing stretchers bearing patients through the water.
Hidalgo state governor Omar Fayad suffered a mishap when the boat in which he was touring the area along with other officials sank.
"I'm safe and sound... and we continue working," he tweeted.