Image: Sandbags hold back river
Gilberto Villasana  /  AFP-Getty Images
A resident of Villahermosa, Mexico, on Tuesday looks over sandbags barely keeping back the Grijalva River from flooding downtown.
updated 10/3/2008 10:45:06 AM ET 2008-10-03T14:45:06

Mexico's government is hoping a new drainage canal will keep a rain-swollen-river from jumping its banks and flooding the southern city of Villahermosa.

Interior Undersecretary Abraham Gonzalez says workers will begin digging the 490-foot-long, 3-foot-deep canal along the Grijalva River on Friday.

Gonzalez says 3,800 people will be evacuated from a rural area that will be flooded by the drainage.

He told reporters Thursday that more than 50,000 people in Villahermosa have been evacuated to shelters since last week.

Villahermosa is the capital of Tabasco state, where severe flooding last year killed at least 33 people and inundated more than 1 million homes.

Heavy rain over the last week also flooded large sections of the town of Minatitlan in the eastern state of Veracruz, forcing thousands to flee.

In some areas floodwaters from the overflowing Coatzacoalcos River reached as high as 10 feet.

Residents had to move about the town in boats and canoes, many loaded with the only possessions they could carry on board.

Numerous other rivers in the state have also surpassed critical levels, leaving nearly a third of Veracruz in a state of emergency.

The flooding also caused the temporary closure of five Pemex oil wells, which together produced 1,500 barrels of crude per day.

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