Mexico City – About 6,000 residents of Cuautitlan, a city located north of the Mexican capital, have been living in flooded houses since last weekend, when heavy rains caused a river in the area to overflow its banks.
The water level, which reached five meters (16.3 feet) at one point, has receded in some places, but the rains on Tuesday complicated the situation, with the work to repair containment structures around the Cuautitlan River still two weeks away from starting, a Cuautitlan city spokesman told Efe.
Cuautitlan is in Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area.
The flooding, which started in the early morning hours of Saturday after torrential rains hit the area, has affected 1,700 houses, forcing about 1,200 families to seek shelter on higher ground, city spokesman Marco Antonio Bernal Gomez said.
Many of the houses were completely covered by water from the river, the city spokesman said.
The water has covered about 110 hectares (272 acres) near where the containment structures ruptured.
The areas affected by the flooding are Olivos 1 and 2, Fresnos, Flor de Loto and San Jose del Puente Grande, a community dedicated to farming and ranching, Bernal Gomez said.
Several towns north of Mexico City in Mexico state frequently flood during the rainy season, but Cuautitlan had never experienced a natural disaster of this type, the city spokesman said.
"It's historic, Cuautitlan had never experienced a situation like this," Bernal Gomez said, adding that residents were receiving medical and psychological assistance to help them deal with anxiety and depression.
Disaster assistance teams have been sent to the affected areas and are working on clean-up and recovery efforts, officials said.
The teams include police, firefigthers, emergency management office personnel, army troops and Mexico state workers.
The water level fell by two meters (6.5 feet) from Monday to Tuesday because the gates of the Lake Guadalupe dam were closed, shutting off the flow of water into the Cuautitlan River, Bernal Gomez said.
The rain stopped for a few hours on Monday, but "it rained most of the day" on Tuesday, Bernal Gomez said, adding that National Water Commission, or Conagua, workers have to wait until the water level falls to begin repairs on containment structures, a process that could take two weeks.
Water is being released from the dam system in the Valley of Mexico, especially Lake Guadalupe, La Concepcion and Angulo, to levels that will allow managers to deal with the rains expected over the next few days, Conagua chief Jose Luis Luege Tamargo said earlier this week.
Workers are going to shift the flow of water from the Cuautitlan River so they can start repairing containment structures in the flood zone, the Conagua chief said.
Municipal and state officials will have to wait until the floodwaters recede to assess the damage to dwellings and provide assistance, Bernal Gomez said.
The Government Secretariat issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday, opening the way for the city of Cuautitlan to obtain Natural Disaster Fund, or Fonden, money to deal with the damage.
The 1.5 million residents of Cuautitlan work in agriculture, manufacturing and professional businesses.
At least 74 people have died since the rainy season started in June in Mexico, the emergency management office said.