Military, government, and civilian helicopters flew to the aid of hundreds of thousands of people stranded in October and November by widespread flooding in the southeastern Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas.
In a single operation, Mexico’s army used 14 helicopters to evacuate 5,000 people.
Heavy rains that began Oct. 28 caused the Grijalva, La Sierra, Carrizal, and Puxcatan rivers to flood and reservoirs to overflow. Roughly 80 percent of Tabasco, along the Gulf of Mexico at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula, was flooded. Its capital city of Villahermosa was among the most severely affected areas.
Floodwaters in some areas reportedly rose more than 9 ft in less than an hour, leaving many residents only enough time to find sanctuary on higher floors or roofs. The governor of Tabasco, Andres Granier, likened the situation to New Orleans’ flooding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. According to the United Nations, all crops in Tabasco were destroyed and much of its livestock was killed. Landslides damaged many roads, and more than 100 hospitals were affected.
A week and a half after the flooding, more than half of Villahermosa was still under water.
Helicopters were flying 4-5 missions a day. From Villahermosa’s airport alone were operating a Mil Mi-8 and seven Mi-17s, three Mexican army Sikorsky Aircraft CH-53s, and four Eurocopter Pumas. The Mexican navy provided three Mi-8s and the federal police sent smaller helicopters.
By mid-November, the biggest official concern was the threat of epidemics of mosquito-borne dengue fever and malaria, as well as cholera. Officials were planning to undertake aerial fumigation programs.