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Mexico in Mourning as More Dead Are Pulled From the Mud on the Hurricane-Ravaged Coast

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ACAPULCO, MEXICO (AP) — Survivors told of``a horrible roar'' offloodwaters that swept away whole families and workers dug intomuck 10 feet deep in a hunt for the victims of Hurricane Pauline'srampage. The bodies, some found in pajamas, piled up in morguesFriday as the death toll rose to at least 141.

More than 6,500 army troops were ordered into areas ravaged bythe hurricane. Aid groups appealed for drinking water, medicine,food, blankets and other supplies for the thousands of Mexicans upand down the coast who have been left homeless.

Hundreds of military doctors and nurses joined local healthworkers in treating survivors in Acapulco. The Pacific Coast resortwas caught off-guard Thursday when the hurricane skirted the citybut unleashed rains that set off widespread flash floods that sweptsleeping people, cars, even giant boulders down hills toward thecity's famed beaches. Waves up to 30 feet tall gouged up thebeaches themselves.

The dead included at least 113 people in Acapulco, said OscarPina Camara, a health official for Guerrero state. Authorities saidthe toll was rounded out by nine other deaths in Guerrero and 19 inneighboring Oaxaca state, where the hurricane began its march uphundreds of miles of seaboard on Wednesday. No foreign touristswere reported killed or injured.

More rain sent a foot of muddy floodwaters into low-lyingstreets of Acapulco on Friday, but with none of the ferocity of theprevious day. Many feared that concrete culverts filled with 10feet of muck, debris and tree trunks could hold more of the bodiesclaimed by Pauline, which weakened to a tropical depression Fridayas it broke apart inland up the coast.

``There will probably be more deaths,'' President ErnestoZedillo acknowledged from Berlin, where he cut short a state visitto fly home Friday. Zedillo rejected criticism that his governmenthad reacted too slowly to Pauline, noting he had immediatelyordered in troops.

``Of course we've got problems of communications, some roadswere interrupted,'' he said. ``But I think we have reactedeffectively to the extent possible under the circumstances.''

Rescuers digging out bodies from mud and collapsed buildingsbrought them to the local morgue, where 65 bodies were laid out foridentification - some of the corpses contorted and dressed in nightclothes.

Grieving relatives filed in all day seeking loved ones.

``I lost my son, my daughter-in-law and their 2-year-oldbaby,''said Marta Alvarez, a 48-year-old grandmother who barely escapedthe floodwaters that roared down these hills before dawn Thursday.

``The water came with a horrible roar. I couldn't get out. Myhusband pulled me by the hand. But we couldn't save my son,'' saidthe woman, who fled waist-high currents raging around her adobehome.

She said they had no inkling of the danger. ``We're so poor wedon't even have a television set,'' she explained.

Jose Hernandez, 27, was at the morgue looking for the body of a45-year-old friend, Trinidad Miranda. ``The pavement buckled ...and the water swallowed her up,'' he said.

``People realized it was serious ... when it was already toolate,'' said Maximo Salazar, 53, as backhoes pushed crumpled carsout of the muck, some buried up to their windshields.

Thousands of people along the coast have been left homeless.

From resorts of Acapulco to Huatulco, and small communities inbetween, army troops moved in Friday. Dozens of soldiers shoveledsand away after an impromptu river ran through the main strip ofthe battered tourist town of Puerto Angel, Oaxaca.

Puerto Angel - where Pauline first hit land Wednesday - waspacked Friday with hundreds of homeless seeking government handoutsof food and water.

Scores of small towns saw homes destroyed across hundreds ofmiles of coast during Pauline, which drove 30-foot waves againstexposed beaches and raked away thatch and makeshift homes with120-mph winds at first landfall.

Some foreign visitors had harrowing experiences.

Luz Sivory, a 19-year-old from Argentina, hung on to her22-year-old Mexican boyfriend Oscar Solis, who was braced in abeach house doorway.

``First we saw the roof fly off. Then the walls went one byone.We were left standing in the doorway with no house around us,''said Solis. ``We didn't know if we were going to survive.''

In the sand, a heavy six-wheel army halftrack sat upside down,overturned by the storm's fury.

Will Quillian, 27, and his girlfriend Katherine Proctor, 28,both of Seattle, were on a ``one-year adventure'' traveling throughLatin America when the hurricane caught them in the town of SanAgustin. They said it was a shame so much of the picturesque coast,dotted by palms, crescent bays and stunning mountain backdrops, hadbeen laid to waste.

``This little town was the most beautiful place .... and nowthere is nothing,'' said Proctor, a kindergarten teacher who hid ina cement bathroom of a house to survive.

By MARK STEVENSON,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

Copyright 2022 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.