Landslide engulfs houses in southern Mexico town

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Rescue team arrives in Oaxaca
Image caption,
Rescuers were sent to the town

A landslide triggered by heavy rain has hit a town in southern Mexico, engulfing a number of houses, officials say.

They say it appears that the damage in Santa Maria Tlahitoltepec, Oaxaca state, was less serious than originally feared.

The state governor said 11 people were missing and there were no confirmed deaths.

Initial reports said seven people died and about 100 others were missing.

"So far no-one is confirmed dead. Eleven are missing," Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz told the Associated Press. "We hope that this type of information will continue and they (the missing) will be found."

He earlier said that the first rescuers to arrive in the town had said the number of houses and people affected may also be lower than previously reported.

Initial reports suggested that some 300 homes had been buried, with as many as 600 people sleeping inside.

Army spokesman Lt Col Francisco Enriquez Rojas told the BBC that 150 troops had now reached Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec "after an arduous trip since the roads are destroyed".

The municipal secretary of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, Cipriano Gomez, told the BBC that the town was in a state of chaos.

"There is no electricity, it is still raining heavily," he said.

Mr Gomez said that the authorities had decided to evacuate the town of 9,000 because there was a risk of further landslides.

A helicopter sent to help had not been able to land due to thick fog in the area, he added.

Specialists sent

The landslide hit the town at 0400 local time (0900 GMT) on Tuesday, when most of the residents were sleeping.

Paramedics, police, soldiers and marines from at least four states have been mobilised, and many are being flown to the area with rescue dogs and heavy machinery, Red Cross officials said.

Specialists in rescuing people from collapsed buildings are also being sent.

President Felipe Calderon said in a message on his Twitter account that there was a lot of damage, but "perhaps not of the magnitude initially reported".

"We are very saddened by this tragedy, very sad but very determined to do everything in God's power to save the victims who are alive in this landslide and to help the people of Santa Maria," he told reporters.

Situated in the Sierra Juarez mountain range, about 80km (50 miles) east of Oaxaca city, Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec is famous for its colonial buildings and archaeological sites.

The BBC's Julian Miglierini in Mexico City says the area is the heartland of the indigenous Mixe culture and is considered one of Mexico's poorest.

Tropical Storm Matthew had caused heavy rainfall in the mountains over the weekend, officials said.

Parts of Mexico, including Oaxaca, have endured their worst rainy season on record, which has triggered heavy flooding and mudslides which have killed at least 15 people and forced thousands from their homes.

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