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Mexico to revise 2014 budget after storms, death toll around 115

Source: Reuters - Sun, 22 Sep 2013 23:50 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Children cross a river in the mountain range of Zihuatanejo in Guerrero state, which has been the hardest hit by heavy rains unleashed by Hurricane Manuel in Mexico last week, Sept. 22, 2013. REUTERS/Jacobo Garcia
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By David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Mexico's Congress will revise its proposed 2014 budget in the wake of some of the worst storm damage in decades, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Sunday as the death toll from widespread flooding and mudslides rose to about 115.

The government earlier this month said it aimed to run a budget deficit this year and next as it forges ahead with spending on infrastructure. It must now find additional funds to repair roads and infrastructure hammered by the storms.

Pena Nieto said Mexico's Congress "will absolutely have to adjust" the federal budget in light of the mounting destruction caused by Tropical Storm Ingrid and Hurricane Manuel over the past week.

"Today we can already anticipate that due to the damages that we've seen, our (emergency) funds are insufficient," said Pena Nieto in a speech in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.

He did not specify new funding levels beyond the roughly 12 billion Mexican pesos ($938.97 million) available in emergency funding.

Pena Nieto also noted that the death toll from the storms stands at "110 or 115."

Mexico's president called for a quick state-by-state evaluation of damage to be overseen by the country's interior minister that "will allow us to add resources beyond those already budgeted for contingency and disaster funds to rebuild infrastructure that has sadly been lost."

"We are confronting rainfall that has practically been the most extensive in the history of the entire national territory," he added.

Mexico's government aims to widen the budget deficit next year to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, the finance ministry said earlier this month.

The ministry also asked Congress to approve a deficit of 0.4 percent of GDP for 2013 after an economic slowdown this year hurt government revenue.

At least two more people died when a Black Hawk rescue helicopter crashed on a hillside near the stricken village of La Pintada in southern Guerrero state, the government said late on Saturday night. Only the deaths of two pilots and a mechanic were confirmed from the accident previously, and the additional two victims were listed as rescue workers.

Meanwhile, nearly 70 people remained missing after a mudslide caused by torrential rains buried 40 homes in La Pintada.

Pena Nieto said on Saturday that there was little hope anyone had survived the mudslide in the village.

Guerrero state, home to the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, has been the hardest hit by heavy rains unleashed by Hurricane Manuel last week.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of tourists made their way out of the heavily flooded beach city, either by special airlift planes or via the city's main highway, which reopened on Friday.

The city's international airport reopened to commercial flights on Sunday morning.

But more than 22,000 homes were listed as damaged in Guerrero and as many as 20,000 people remained in shelters, according to Angel Aguirre, the state's governor.

Mudslides and flooding have buried homes and wrecked highways and bridges in all but two of the country's 31 states, according to government officials.

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