Mex­i­can town is evac­u­ated amid fears dam may fail

Austin American-Statesman - - WEDNESDAYBRIEFING - By Jorge Var­gas

NUEVO LAREDO, Ta­mauli­pas — About 18,000 peo­ple were evac­u­ated Tues­day from a town in north­ern Mex­ico where au­thor­i­ties feared a dam would over­flow from rains that ac­com­pa­nied Hur­ri­cane Alex.

Evac­uees were taken to shel­ters in nearby towns and cities, Ciudad Anahuac Mayor Santos Garza Gar­cia said.

The Venus­tiano Car­ranza dam, about 43 miles away, reached its ca­pac­ity af­ter days of heavy rains, in­clud­ing rem­nants of the hur­ri­cane, which slammed into Mex­ico’s north­ern Gulf Coast last week.

Garza said 12 flood­gates had been opened, but au­thor­i­ties were un­able to open 17 oth­ers be­cause of elec­tri­cal fail­ures. He said the dam was re­leas­ing 600 cu­bic me­ters per sec­ond into the Sal­ado River, a trib­u­tary of the Rio Grande, but could over­flow soon.

“The sit­u­a­tion is very crit­i­cal,” Garza said.

Au­thor­i­ties said they were be­ing care­ful about re­leas­ing wa­ter from dams into al­ready swollen rivers.

Sally Spener, pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer for the In­ter­na­tional Bound­ary and Wa­ter Com­mis­sion — which op­er­ates the Amis­tad dam — said the com­mis­sion had tried to limit re­leases Mon­day “so that we would not ex­ac­er­bate the flood­ing.”

North of Ciudad Anahuac in Texas, of­fi­cials in Laredo were pre­par­ing to close one of its in­ter­na­tional bridges be­fore the Rio Grande crested late to­day or Thurs­day.

Bridge One, which links down­town Laredo to Nuevo Laredo, was ex­pected to close tonight be­fore the river crested at an ex­pected 33 feet.

But Laredo spokes­woman Xo­chitl Mora said the span could close sooner be­cause of­fi­cials wor­ried that pres­sure from the wa­ter flow could dam­age the bridge.

The other three bridges link­ing the border cities would re­main open.

Of­fi­cials were also evac­u­at­ing 2,000 peo­ple near Mex­ico’s rain-swollen Rio Es­con­dido in the re­gion, Piedras Ne­gras Mayor Jose Manuel Mal­don­ado said.

At least 12 peo­ple were killed last week dur­ing the storm, said Gov. Ro­drigo Me­d­ina de la Cruz of Nuevo Leon state, where Ciudad Anahuac is lo­cated. Three other peo­ple are missing.

At least 130,000 peo­ple were still with­out wa­ter, and that tally didn’t in­clude some com­mu­ni­ties in moun­tain­ous re­gions that were cut off, Me­d­ina de la Cruz told Tele­visa net­work. He ap­pealed for he­li­copters to reach iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties with wa­ter and other sup­plies.

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