November 21, 2007

California Sends Help to Tabasco Flood Victims

By Martín E. Martínez
Vida en el Valle

Ana María Carrizales is worried about her relatives in Mexico because their town in the southern state of Tabasco has been flooded and cut off from the capital city for two weeks now.

She has only been able to talk on the phone once with one of her brothers, who told her all the roads have been washed out by a recent tropical storm and that most of the homes still have lots of water inside.

“I am very worried because it has been two weeks and I don’t know how my brothers and my mother are faring. I pray to God that they are OK and can call me soon,” said Carrizales, a native of the town of Cumuapa who has lived in Sacramento for the past 10 years.

Mayra Contreras, a resident of Stockton, is in a similar situation. She worries about her cousin and her family.

“They cannot leave the ranch where they live because the roads are closed. They can’t even go out to buy groceries,” said Contreras. Her relative has a newborn baby to take care of and her husband is temporary out of a job because the school where he works is closed.

Carrizales, last week was among several people who visited a relief office set up in the Arden neighborhood to gather supplies and other aid for the victims of the floods in Mexico. The center is run by the Mexican Consulate and is one of many that that country’s government and some relief agencies have set up throughout the United States.

Lilia Hoyos checks expiration dates on donated canned food in the courtyard of the state government building in Tijuana, which has been set up as a donation center for supplies for victims of flooding in Tabasco. Photo - David Maung.

Mexican officials report that the storms left 500,000 people temporarily homeless and that 80 percent of Tabasco state experienced flooding.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón called the flooding “the most destructive in Mexican history.”

In Sacramento, the Mexican Consulate and Mexicana Airlines are hoping to collect sufficient food and other items to fly to Southern Mexico in the next few days. Their collection center is located in the Arden Howe Plaza.

“We want to help, as much as possible, all of our countrymen that have lost all they had. We urge everyone to help, to cooperate with the relief effort,” said Alejandra Bologna, Mexican consul in Sacramento. The aid collection center will be open this week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In Stockton, radio station KSTN ‘La Poderosa’ is broadcasting pleas for help with the relief effort. The station’s DJs are soliciting donations for as little as $5.

The International Red Cross in Sacramento also said it would collect assistance and work with the Mexican consulate in Fresno to make sure the aid reaches those in need.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also has said he would help the flood victims as an act of solidarity with Mexico, which offered California assistance during the recent wildfires.

“Southern Mexico has been devastated by these terrible floods that have damaged key infrastructure and caused extensive human suffering,” Schwarzenegger said. “The Mexican people offered their help and were instrumental in our efforts to fight the recent wildfires in our state. My administration will provide whatever assistance we can to help our neighbors recover from this disaster.”

Among the items that California has provided the Mexican government are inflatable rafts, flotation devices, tools to repair boats, fuel, wet suits, rubber gloves, sleeping bags, blankets and electrical generators.

Schwarzenegger also sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to help Mexico and allow California National Guard airplanes to deliver aid to the flooded zones.

Winnie Romeril, an Internacional Red Cross volunteer, said conditions are slowly improving for the flooding victims. Most people who were completely cut off by the flooding have been moved to safety, but the threat of disease remains because of all the stagnant water and humidity.

“We have concluded the first phase and we’re now channeling aid to the shelters so we can help all these people. We’re vaccinating children and adults against diseases such as dengue fever, tuberculosis and other diseases that could bring about an epidemic under these circumstances,” she said.

The aid, however, has been slow to reach remote towns.

“The outside relief has been extensive, but most of the aid is coming from Mexican state governments and the Mexican people themselves... The aid is being delivered constantly, both in terms of items and monetary assistance,” Romeril said.

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