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Shrimping Community Counts Dead in Aftermath of Hurricane Ismael

September 19, 1995

TOPOLOBAMPO, Mexico (AP) _ Residents of this shrimping community are counting their dead after a hurricane roared through, surprising much of the fleet at sea by arriving six hours earlier than expected.

The latest toll was 91 dead with new victims being found daily.

``We have found 43 just here and there are more up and down the coast,″ said Dr. Primitivo Lopez, a forensic pathologist. ``There are about 25 boats missing, and we figure an average of eight crewmen per boat.″

Hurricane Ismael hit Thursday night, and some of the worst damage was in this village on the Gulf of California near Los Mochis, in the northern state of Sinaloa.

Fishermen said 30-foot waves overwhelmed small, poorly equipped fishing vessels. Winds from Ismael reached 80 mph with gusts of 100 mph.

``There was no time to get back safely,″ Dr. Lopez said, noting that the storm hit six hours before its expected midnight arrival.

About 150 fisherman have been found alive on islands, sandbars or on disabled fishing boats.

The national Television Azteca network reported that 26,000 people remained homeless Monday. At least 4,000 houses had been damaged.

Thirteen unidentified bodies were buried in a common grave on Monday and Dr. Lopez said more would follow. Many survivors came to the morgue to try to identify the victims, he said.

The Mexican navy flies over the area several times a day.

``We will keep looking as long as there might be survivors,″ said Adm. Ruben Gomez Galvan, the commander of the naval base in Topolobampo. ``We are not suspending the search. We are still finding bodies.″

He said the Topolobambo fleet consisted of about 150 boats. But on Monday there were boats there from all along the Mexican coast, because the area is rich in shrimp. For that reason almost half of the victims could not be identified locally.

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