MEXICO CITY — Oaxaca, Mexico, experienced a severe landslide Tuesday morning that swallowed an entire town and may have left hundreds of people dead or injured.
The extent of the damage is unknown, as the rural town of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec remains cut off from the rest of Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca. Attempts to contact churches, community centers, schools and the mayor’s office in the town failed because all lines are down.
The mudslide, which could have buried up to 300 homes while residents were fast asleep, is believed to have taken place at about 4 a.m. local time. It occurred when a hillside battered with heavy rains all night long collapsed.
Mexico’s Interior Ministry released a statement Tuesday morning saying it was sending police and military to help in the rescue effort, which has been stymied by roads cut off from other landslides. Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec is a four-hour drive from the state capital of Oaxaca City.
“We still haven’t reached the town,” the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, said on local television Tuesday. “We’re sending machinery, army personnel, police, ambulances, and rescue workers.”
Mr. Ruiz said an area as wide as 655 feet may have been affected by the collapse. He initially estimated 500 to 600 had been caught in the slide, but was later said on radio that seven people were confirmed dead and 100 were missing, according to Reuters.
With all electricity and power lines down in town, authorities were only alerted to the tragedy when a resident called on satellite phone, reports Reuters.
“They said the mountain had collapsed and a lot of people were in their homes because of the hour,” Fausto Martinez, a Oaxaca civil protection worker, told the news agency.
The landslide comes as Mexico has been battered by perilous weather. In Veracruz state, 16,000 people were evacuated earlier this month by Hurricane Karl. Southern Mexico and parts of Central America have been pummeled by incessant rains during this rainy season.