Monday, June 17, 2024

Caught between a river and the sea, this town has been flooded for a month

Flooding has been severe across much of Tabasco but the residents of a town wedged between a river and the sea are worse off than most.

Villa Cuauhtémoc, a town of about 5,000 people 70 kilometers north of Villahermosa between the Santa Anita River and the Gulf of Mexico coast, has been flooded for the past month.

Making things worse is that the floodwaters are infested with caimans, snakes and fish with a penchant for biting people.

Local resident Mercedes May told the newspaper Reforma that the water inundating the town is not flowing out to sea because waves crashing into the coastline won’t allow it.

“So it stagnates here,” she said. “The problem is that people who are not affected have assistance [but] we don’t.”

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The main reason why humanitarian aid hasn’t reached Villa Cuauhtémoc is that it has been cut off due to flooding outside the town.

The highway between Villahermosa and Frontera, the municipal seat of Centla, is flooded near the community of El Espino due to the overflowing of water from nearby lagoons and swamps, making it impossible to reach Cuauhtémoc by road from the capital.

Entering the town from Nacajuca is also impossible because the road between that municipality and Cuauhtémoc has been closed due to landslides.

Cuauhtémoc residents are becoming increasingly worried about the situation.

“There are people who are sick, children and old people mainly. Where are we going to take them and how?” asked María Alicia Ramírez, a 30-year-old woman who lost two of her toenails as a result of constantly having her feet submerged in water.

“The water has been like this for a month, since the first rains started,” she said.

Ramírez added that the release of water from the Peñitas dam in Chiapas after recent heavy rains made the flooding worse. She said that her fridge, washing machine and the mattresses on the beds in her home were all damaged by floodwaters.

“We had to get our pigs out [of their pen] because they were going to drown,” Ramírez said.

She also told Reforma that she had to install a wooden barricade to prevent caimans from getting into her home.

“We’re asking for help, … our feet are hurt, we’ve got fungal infections, we don’t have water, the children are getting sick,” Ramírez said.

Another local woman said that residents can’t leave their homes to go to shelters due to the risk of robbery.

“There is a town near here, near the river, called Paso Nuevo and last night they were robbing [homes] using canoes,” Edith May said. “They [thieves] have already gone into some homes here as well. What we want is for help to come.”

A woman finds a dry place for her poultry.
A woman finds a dry place for her poultry.

While women are doing their best to clean up their homes, the men of Villa Cuauhtémoc are trying to make a living, Reforma said. Some are fishing, some are transporting people through the flooded streets on motorbikes and others are working at food stalls. But business is slow because few people have money to spend.

Although they have lived with the floodwaters for the past month, many residents are anxious that they are about to rise even more.

“Tonight or tomorrow, [the water] will rise double [the current level] as they send the water from the Peñitas dam,” said Edith May.

President López Obrador, a Tabasco native, admitted Sunday that federal authorities chose to divert water from the dam away from Villahermosa to low-lying areas of the state. The municipalities of Centla, where Cuauhtémoc is located, Nacajuca and Jalpa were hit especially hard by the decision.

Many residents of communities in Jalpa are facing a similar situation to those in Villa Cuauhtémoc.

“We’ve been like this, in the water, for 22 days,” said Asunción Vargas Hernández, who is camping out near a highway waiting for the floodwaters in her town to recede.

“We no longer know what to do, [the water] hasn’t gone down at all. We survive on what the people passing by give us, the government hasn’t given us anything,” she said.

Civil Protection authorities in Tabasco estimate that about 900,000 people have been affected by flooding in Tabasco, and numerous communities haven’t received assistance despite the pledges of authorities to help all affected citizens.

However, the federal government did send more than 100 tonnes of essential supplies to Tabasco over the past two days and families were to be given food packages containing items such as rice, beans and canned tuna.

The government announced Wednesday that it would begin a census of victims next week and that each affected household will receive 8,000 pesos (US $395) and vouchers exchangeable for domestic appliances.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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