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Flooding, blasts wrack Mexican town

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2003

BALASTRERA, Veracruz, Mexico - First a landslide swept away people, animals and buildings. Then a ruptured gas pipeline blew up and wreaked even more fury on this popular truck-stop town between Mexico City and Veracruz.

Fifteen people were missing Friday from the flooding and explosions that rocked the area, according to the Nogales municipal police department. Flooding leveled 10 houses in Nogales alone. At least two people were killed and 80 injured, but the toll was expected to rise.

Jesus Cano was visiting a friend at one of the repair shops in Balastrera, about 115 miles southeast of Mexico City, when the floods and explosions happened.

"It was dark," said Cano, 46, who was treated for scrapes and broken glass in his neck. "There was a shudder and then it was like there was daylight. One, two, three times."

Officials said floods from the rain-gorged Chiquito River swept through town and ruptured a 2-foot-diameter gas pipeline. El Mundo de Veracruz, a newspaper in the closest major city, Orizaba, reported Friday that two explosions followed, the first caused by a truck veering off the wet pavement on a mountain road and hitting the gas line, and the second caused by a landslide nearby.

The newspaper said people, animals and cars were swept down the mountainside in a torrent of water, mud, rocks and branches.

In the center of Nogales, six miles from the explosions, floodwaters engulfed homes along the town's main street, where crews used bulldozers, axes and shovels Friday to clear debris as the water receded.

Veracruz state officials reported two deaths from the explosion, while the Red Cross reported five deaths and said some of the victims had burns.

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