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Hurricane Pauline buries much of Mexican village in sand and mud

October 16, 1997

SAN ISIDRO, Mexico (AP) _ This eerie hamlet a half-hour drive northwest from Acapulco looks like an archaeological dig.

The thatched roofs of a few houses sprout from the sand. Remnants of brick walls are the only trace of other structures.

Residents point out the rocky spots where their neighbors lived a week ago. The houses, and everything in them, are now below ground.

Villagers say six people died in San Isidro last week when Hurricane Pauline turned a stream that runs past town into a torrent of mud and rocks, burying much of the village in a matter of hours.

One of the luckier residents was Juan Infante, a 57-year-old who can recite the latest on the U.S. baseball playoffs and plays catch every evening with three old friends.

The sand stops halfway up the walls of his house, but inside the muck is only waist-deep. On Wednesday, Infante stood in his living room, fishing around blindly for anything the water didn’t sweep away.

His first find: his baseball mitt. He smiled, slipped it on his hand and pounded his fist into the pocket, sending a splatter of mud in every direction. ``Not bad,″ he said.

Infante pulled a mud-coated radio and VCR from one corner of the room and piled them onto a table covered with two inches of brown goo. He pulled his refrigerator outside to dry, saying he’d have a repairman take a look.

``I lost pretty much everything,″ he said. ``All my documents, all my money, all my furniture. Everything I have here doesn’t work any more.″

A father and daughter stooped over to peer inside the door and see how Infante was doing. Each carried a small box filled with a liter of water, two cans of tuna, milk, tortillas, oil, sugar, dry beans, two diapers and a sponge.

``This is the first help I’ve gotten,″ said Vicente Nolazco Jimenez, 55, saying he’d been hungry for a week since his house was filled with three feet of sand. ``But I’m OK. Look next door _ there’s no trace there was ever a house there.″

He pointed to a sandy spot, where he said an old woman had climbed to the top of a mango tree to avoid being swept away by the river.

Fifty yards down the washed-out road, 67-year-old Arcadia de la Cruz Ortiz surveyed the top of her house, which was filled with hundreds of river-smoothed rocks. Two inches of her metal door jutted up from the sand. The roof was gone.

``They stole the tarpaper sheets because I’m staying at a shelter,″ she said. ``Instead of helping they took my things away.″

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