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'No confirmed deaths' in landslide

A huge mudslide first thought to have buried hundreds of people has left only 11 missing with no confirmed dead, according to authorities.

Earlier reports had predicted a catastrophe in Mexico's rain-soaked southern state of Oaxaca.

Interior minister Francisco Blake and Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz confirmed the drastically-reduced toll from the slide that hit the town of Santa Maria de Tlahuitoltepec on Tuesday.

"So far no one is confirmed dead. Eleven are missing," Mr Ruiz said. "We hope that this type of information will continue and they (the missing) will be found."

Initial reports from Santa Maria de Tlahuitoltepec, a rural mountain town 373 miles south east of Mexico City, said a hillside collapsed on hundreds of sleeping residents after several days of heavy rains in the aftermath of a hurricane and tropical storm that hit Mexico and Central America. Civil protection authorities first reported seven people killed and at least 100 missing.

Communications with the town were difficult after the pre-dawn slide. Soldiers and civil protection and Red Cross workers could not reach the area for nearly 10 hours because mud and rocks blocked roads and a bridge was damaged, while bad weather prevented helicopters from being used.

President Felipe Calderon reported on his Twitter account that an army commander and 30 soldiers had reached the town by foot and that there was a lot of damage, but "perhaps not of the magnitude initially reported".

Donato Vargas, an official in Santa Maria de Tlahuitoltepec reached by a satellite telephone, had said as many as 300 homes were believed to have been buried and residents who made it out early in the morning said they had no success digging out neighbours.

He said the slide dragged houses packed with sleeping families some 1,300 feet down the hillside along with cars, livestock and light poles. "We were all sleeping and all I heard was a loud noise and when I left the house I saw that the hill had fallen," he said. "We were left without electricity, without telephone and we couldn't help them. There was no way to move the mud."

One person was reported killed in a mudslide in another Oaxaca community, Villa Hidalgo, and 30 people were killed on Monday in a slide in Colombia.


From Belfast Telegraph