Marco Ugarte  /  AP
People evacuate the flooded city of Villahermosa, Mexico, on Thursday.
updated 11/1/2007 12:29:53 PM ET 2007-11-01T16:29:53

A week of heavy rains unleashed massive flooding in southeastern Mexico, killing at least one person and forcing tens of thousands to flee rising waters in Tabasco and Chiapas states.

An unidentified man was killed and about 20,400 people sought shelter Wednesday in Tabasco's oil-rich capital of Villahermosa, the state government said in a press release. Gov. Andres Granier urged residents to evacuate the city where floodwaters reached the rooftops of homes.

"If they do not leave, I'm going to order them out by force," Granier told the Televisa television network.

The flooding, which is not related to Tropical Storm Noel, apparently caused the soil supporting a 10-inch natural gas pipeline to give way and spring a leak, officials from the state-owned company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said. Tabasco officials said the pipeline had exploded, but that there were no deaths or injuries.

Water also crept up around the huge stone heads of an Olmec Indian archaeological site in Tabasco.

President Felipe Calderon flew to the area Wednesday and offered "all help humanly possible" to the more than 300,000 people of the state whose homes were flooded, damaged or cut off.

In the southern state of Chiapas, 7,000 people were evacuated due to floods, the newspaper El Universal reported.

In Villahermosa, rooftops barely jutted above the surface of brackish waters flooding the city's streets after at least one major river overflowed its banks.

"Tabasco (normally) has water on 34 percent of its territory, but I can tell you that now, it's more than 70 percent water," Granier said Tuesday, according to a transcript of his comments posted on the state government's Web site. "In 48 hours, our state has been devastated, totally devastated."

Heavy rains started swelling waterways on Sunday, and the Puxcatan and Grijalva rivers' levels were still rising at a dangerous rate Wednesday night.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Flood rescues


Discussion comments