Rescue workers and family members donning masks soaked in alcohol pulled more bodies from the mud-choked banks of the Santa Catarina River where Hurricane Gilbert killed at least 125 people, and Monterrey health officials warned of epidemics.
A team of soldiers and volunteers searched downstream Tuesday from Monterrey for scores of bodies still believed entombed in the mounds of gray mud and debris left from a wall of rampaging water that rushed through the normally dry riverbed Saturday.The stench of death hung over the Santa Catarina, and Monterrey health officials braced for possible outbreaks of malaria and intestinal diseases as food and clean water were in short supply in the city of 4 million.
Rescue workers combing the river banks retrieved 19 more bodies Tuesday, officials said, raising to 125 the number killed in Monterrey, where Gilbert dealt its deadliest blow with sudden floods that caught residents offguard. Monterrey is Mexico's industrial center 425 miles north of Mexico City.
Bits of clothing, furniture, paper, plastic, bottles, hairbrushes, costume jewelry and toys were enmeshed in trees up to 20 feet in the air, a sign of how high the water had risen and trapped passengers of four buses and others fleeing low-lying areas.
The workers, digging with shovels and their bare hands around carcasses of horses and cows lying in various stages of decay, donned masks drenched in alcohol to ward off the stench. A relative of a missing woman said the search was improvised because "no one knows how to search for a corpse."
Six soldiers and 36 volunteers packed shovels, metal stretchers and large green plastic bags for bodies into trucks and Land Rovers and traveled 35 miles downstream to search for bodies near the collective farm of San Miguelito.
Rescuers intermittently lifted their masks, sniffing the air briefly, and then would poke through the waste and mud in areas where the odor was strong, which generally indicated the site of a body.