Flooding over the weekend was the worst in at least 50 years in the Tabasco municipality where President López Obrador was born, according to residents.
Several towns in Macuspana, located southeast of the state capital Villahermosa, suffered severe flooding due to heavy rains brought by two cold fronts and Tropical Storm Eta.
One of the worst affected was El Castaño, a community near Macuspana, the municipal seat.
The newspaper El Universal reported that residents sought refuge on their roofs as water from the overflowing Puxcatán and Tulijá rivers inundated the town.
Ángel Antonio, a local boatman who helped some residents evacuate their homes, said that floodwaters had claimed the lives of many people.
“There are a lot of dead people, [they] drowned. I saw them,” he told El Universal.
The official death toll in Tabasco from flooding stands at five but it appears likely that number will rise.
César Guadalupe Carrillo Sanchez, another resident of El Castaño, said Sunday that the town had been completely flooded for two days.
“It’s a situation that had never occurred in Macuspana,” he told El Universal while standing in waist-deep water.
“My neighbors and I are removing everything [from our homes], … We’re removing clothes and supplies, whatever we can.”
Carillo said that the only way to move about El Castaño was in a canoe or boat, adding that the roads into the community are cut off.
“This had never happened. I’m 47 years old, I’ve been living here for 40 years and this had never happened,” he said.
Residents said that they haven’t received any support from state or federal authorities and that they are fearful of snakes and crocodiles lurking in the floodwaters. Despite that fear, some residents have fled their homes swimming, El Universal said.
In Tepetitán, López Obrador’s home town, water has inundated homes after flowing over the top of sandbag walls that were erected in vain.
Other Macuspana communities where flooding has been reported include Nicolás Bravo, Álvaro Obregón, Puxcatán, Luis Donaldo Colosio, Josefa Ortiz and San Joseito. Flooding has also affected Villahermosa, where the Grijalva River burst its banks.
The federal Civil Protection service said late Sunday that the government was providing humanitarian assistance to more than 177,000 people affected by heavy rains in Tabasco, Chiapas and Veracruz. More than 141,000 of that number are in Tabasco.
The Civil Protection service also said that 58,877 homes have been damaged and that 220 roads and 20 bridges have been affected by flooding in the three states.
Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez Alzúa said that 27 people had lost their lives due to the heavy rain – 22 in Chiapas and five in Tabasco. Several landslides have been reported in the former state.
She said that more than 8,000 people had sought refuge in 209 temporary shelters, 195 of which are in Tabasco.
Velázquez noted that rain is not forecast this week in areas currently affected by flooding. The forecast “allows us to take very important decisions to help people,” she said.
She said that thousands of civilian and military personnel from several government institutions are contributing to efforts to evacuate affected residents and deliver humanitarian aid.
López Obrador, who flew to Villahermosa on a military aircraft on Saturday, said that no one would be abandoned by the federal government.
He also said that the government will draw up a new plan to avoid future flooding in Tabasco. Rivers will be dredged and there will be greater control over the release of water from dams on the Grijalva River, López Obrador said.
The response to the flooding by Tabasco and federal authorities was criticized by federal Deputy Verónica Juárez Piña, who said that they acted too slowly.
The lawmaker, coordinator of the Democratic Revolution Party in the lower house of Congress, said the federal and state Morena party governments lacked foresight and coordination in their response.
Juárez also took aim at López Obrador for dissolving the disaster relief fund Fonden, one of 109 public trusts that were recently abolished.
Fonden, she said, ensured that funds for disaster relief were available and it was managed by officials with extensive experience in responding to natural disasters.
López Obrador and the ruling Morena party ignored the warnings about the adverse consequences that abolishing the fund would have, Juárez said.