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6 Die in Mexico Mudslides, Flooding

September 29, 1998

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Mud thundered down the hill before dawn, landing on the corrugated metal roof of her tiny shack. Angelina Guebara looked out the window, grabbed her 2-year-old son and ran.

``Once I got outside, I realized we had nowhere to go,″ the 22-year-old mother said. ``I just held my baby and cried in the rain.″

Heavy rains triggered landslides that killed six people and injured at least four others Monday along Ajusco mountain south of Mexico City. A weakened section of the mountain collapsed, swallowing up three houses above Guebara’s.

Among the dead was 13-year-old Lourdes Barrera Orozco, who witnesses said was found under a pile of mud and debris still clutching a school notebook.

Her 6-year-old brother was flung on top of her. He and another 9-year-old relative suffered head injuries and were flown by helicopter to a Mexico City hospital.

City officials had been predicting such a tragedy since the start of the annual rainy season in late June, launching a campaign to relocate the people living in shantytowns ringing the capital’s hillsides. But many of the squatters _ poor migrants from the country _ refused.

``Of course, I’m going to be afraid to go back home, but I have nowhere else to go,″ 49-year-old Maria Martinez Luz said Monday, after seeing Barrera’s body pulled from the debris.

In another neighborhood, an avalanche buried the home of Juan Jose Ballesteros and his wife, Dolores, killing them. Rescuers saved their three children.

Elsewhere, Maria Guadalupe Garcia and her husband, Reyes Hernandez, were found dead, the government news agency Notimex reported.

Television reports said another body was found in a mudslide. In all, half a dozen houses were destroyed.

Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas put Mexico City on a state of alert, and city officials warned those living near an almost-overflowing dam to be ready to evacuate.

Shelters were set up at local gymnasiums and churches. On Ajusco mountain, the hardest hit area, the army patrolled to prevent looting.

Some neighborhoods in a low-lying former lake bed east of Mexico City have been flooded for days, and to the west, the Lerma River overflowed its banks and left some villages inundated in sewage.

A mudslide blocked Mexico City’s main highway to the western part of the country Monday.

Heavy rains also caused rivers to overflow in the southern state of Chiapas, where flooding earlier this month killed at least 185 people and left hundreds of villages cut off from the outside world.

Two new temporary bridges built to replace ones destroyed in that flooding were washed away again, local media reported.

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