Twelve of 17 municipalities in Tabasco have been flooded this week after a cold front brought heavy rain to the Gulf coast state.
Paraíso, where Pemex’s new refinery is located, and Teapa are the two worst affected municipalities, the news magazine Proceso reported.
The other 10 municipalities where flooding has been reported are Centro (Villahermosa), Cárdenas, Jalpa de Méndez, Huimanguillo, Comalcalco, Cunduacán, Jalapa, Nacajuca, Centla and Tacotalpa.
Civil Protection authorities reported Thursday that over 500 homes had been flooded and that some 300 residents in 87 communities had to evacuate.
— Protección Civil Tab (@ProcivilTabasco) October 20, 2022
In Teapa, a banana-growing municipality that borders Chiapas, hundreds of hectares of land have been flooded, Proceso said. The Teapa-Villahemosa highway was also flooded after the De La Sierra River overflowed. The army, navy and National Guard helped scores of people evacuate their homes.
In Paraíso, 80% of the territory is underwater, according to Mayor Ana Luis Castellanos, who said that deficiencies in the construction of the Olmeca Refinery were to blame. She said that many of the water channels in the area were filled in with earth and sand that had been removed from the refinery site during construction, and excess rainwater was unable to flow into them as a result.
The refinery, the municipal palace and the local market are all flooded, the mayor said, noting that her home was affected as well.
“The refinery is underwater, it’s confirmed,” Castellanos said. “… They filled the regulating reservoirs too much … and the problem we have now [is due to that],” she said.
“… The majority of people [in Paraíso] are [living] in water because they don’t want to leave so they don’t lose their belongings, their things,” the Democratic Revolution Party mayor said.
“[But] the truth is that people’s things have been damaged because they didn’t have time to raise things – their beds, their fridges,” she said. “… We’re going to try to open up the water channels, we’re already working [to receive people] in shelters, we have to look after people’s health,” Castellanos said.
Flooding has long been a problem in Paraíso (and other parts of Tabasco), but the mayor and many residents believe that the construction of the refinery – which was officially opened in July although its not yet refining oil – has made the area more vulnerable to the phenomenon.
But some other residents say that a substandard drainage system — rather than the filling in of the water channels — is the main cause of flooding in Paraíso.
Hay medios de comunicación que escandalizan sobre la inundación de Paraíso, Tabasco y de la refinería de Dos Bocas (se anega cuando llueve parte del centro y el mercado). Compartimos imágenes de esta mañana de Paraíso y la refinería donde no se ve las inundaciones como se dice. pic.twitter.com/k5rgInOh2I
— Jesús Ramírez Cuevas (@JesusRCuevas) October 21, 2022
“The mayor says that it’s due to the filling in [of the channels] … but … there isn’t a good drainage system,” José Aguilar told the Reforma newspaper.
Anny Mández, a resident of the neighboring municipality of Comalcalco, also blamed an inadequate drainage system for the flooding there. “It’s the rainy season, ladies and gentlemen, I’m from Comalcalco and we’re all underwater, the drains can’t keep up,” she wrote on social media.
An environmental impact statement prepared in 2019 said that the refinery site was susceptible to flooding from both sea and river water and susceptible to storm tides and erosion. But Energy Minister Rocío Nahle said on Twitter Thursday that the refinery — which was built by the government — was designed to resist “any situation.”
Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, President López Obrador’s communications coordinator, asserted that claims about flooding at the refinery were false or exaggerated.
“There are media outlets that are making a scene about the flooding of Paraíso, Tabasco, and the … refinery,” he wrote on Twitter Friday. “… [Here are] images from this morning in Paraíso and the refinery, where the flooding they’re talking about is not seen,” Ramírez Cuevas added above four photos of the town and refinery.