Sixteen people died in an IMSS hospital in Tula, Hidalgo, Tuesday morning after heavy rains caused severe flooding and cut off electrical service to much of the municipality.
Fourteen of the dead were COVID patients on assisted respiration who lost their lives when the system supplying oxygen ceased to function due to the loss of electricity.
Three rivers in the area burst their banks, including the River Tula which is only 210 meters from the hospital.
Water entering the hospital not only flooded patients’ wards but damaged a generator which would have provided an alternative power supply for the oxygen machines on which patients were dependent.
Videos uploaded to social media show people pushing their relatives out of a flooded room with water up to their knees.
— Webcams de México (@webcamsdemexico) September 7, 2021
Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad explained that nine colonias and 31,691 inhabitants had been affected by the flooding. He said five temporary shelters had been set up for people who had fled their homes.
The director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), Zoé Robledo, said there were 104 people working in the hospital attending to 56 patients when the flooding began early Tuesday. Around 20 patients were being evacuated and transferred to other hospitals, he said in a video on social media early Tuesday afternoon.
Early in the day emergency room Dr. Héctor Manuel Arias called for oxygen for his patients in a live transmission social media: “What is urgent is oxygen for these patients who still have hope to survive … The ones that concern me the most are the COVID patients, they are in a fight for their survival, they need their oxygen,” he said.
President López Obrador addressed the tragic events in Tula in a Twitter post Tuesday afternoon. “In this honorable assignment there are good days, very good, bad and very bad. Today is one of the latter. The deaths of 17 patients in the IMSS hospital due to the overflowing of the Tula River in Hidalgo has brought me much sorrow.
“A lot of water has fallen in the Valley of México and it will continue raining. To those who live in low-lying areas move quickly to shelters or to higher ground with family and friends.”
UPDATES: The number of fatalities was updated to reflect the final tally and the president’s comments were updated with his remarks on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.