Source AP ©

Jittery cattle save people's lives

When a landslip buried a Mexican village, only 14 of its 600 population were killed or missing. The reason for it is jittery cattle. The animals felt the danger and ran to the higher ground. People got out of bed to chase them and then watched their homes ruined by a mighty flood of mud and water.

"The animals felt it and they ran," federal Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna told the Televisa network. "The residents went after them with rifles and shotguns."

Two deaths were confirmed on Tuesday as rescuers dove through a murky river and dug among mountains of earth in search of victims, two days after the landslide crashed down on the tiny hamlet of San Juan Grijalva in Mexico's southernmost state, Chiapas.

The body of a 40-year-old female resident was found floating in the Grijalva River a mile downstream from the village, said Luis Manuel Garcia, assistant civil defense secretary for Chiapas state. Gov. Juan Sabines said rescue workers confirmed the death of a man from the village.

The confirmed deaths left between 12 and 14 people still missing. Chiapas Civil Protection official Alfredo Chan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that authorities would also search nearby towns to see if victims had sought refuge there.

The landslide in San Juan Grijalva added to woes caused by widespread flooding and heavy rains across Mexico and Central America . In Honduras , authorities evacuated dozens of people on the Atlantic coast and at least two people drowned in floodwaters, including a 2-year-old boy swept away by a raging river.

Officials said that about 80 percent of Mexico 's Gulf coast state of Tabasco was underwater at one point and some 500,000 had their homes damaged or destroyed.

Tens of thousands of people were still huddled in makeshift shelters, on rooftops and in the second floors of homes Tuesday as authorities patrolled flooded streets in boats looking for looters. Small-boat owners ferried residents to their houses to salvage medications and other belongings.

During a visit to the disaster area, President Felipe Calderon announced the creation of a disaster relief and reconstruction fund of about US$700 million ( Ђ 480 million) for Tabasco state, saying the money would come from federal budget surpluses.

Tabasco produces a large part of Mexico's oil wealth, which is in turn one of the government's main sources of funding.

Officials said river levels were continuing to drop in the state capital of Villahermosa , but Navy Secretary Mariano Francisco Saynez told Televisa it would take about three months for life to return to normal.

People who lost everything waited in long lines for aid and many took care to avoid strolling in waist-deep waters infested with poisonous snakes and occasionally larger reptiles.

"Some crocodiles have shown up after leaving their lagoons," Saynez said Tuesday.

Residents of San Juan Grijalva said they were awakened Sunday night by a loud rumbling as mud and rocks rolled down from surrounding hilltops.

"It was a roar, like a helicopter was passing overhead," recounted farmer Domingo Sanchez, 21. "We didn't know what was happening, and then we went outside, and there were cracks opening the earth. We ran up the hill ... but soil kept coming down on us."

When the hillside collapsed into the Grijalva River , it also created at least one enormous wave of water that swept over dozens of homes. Gov. Sabines described it as a "mini-tsunami."

David Sanchez, 22, a cousin of Domingo Sanchez who lived in a different part of the village, said a wave carried his mother about 200 meters (yards) downstream before he could rescue her.

"It swept away everything: trees, houses, everything," David Sanchez said.

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