By Associated Press Writer
updated 7/6/2010 7:59:10 PM ET 2010-07-06T23:59:10

About 18,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from a town in northern Mexico where authorities feared a dam would overflow from rains that accompanied Hurricane Alex.

Evacuees were taken to shelters in nearby towns and cities, Ciudad Anahuac Mayor Santos Garza Garcia said.

The Venustiano Carranza dam, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) away, reached capacity after days of heavy rains, including remnants of the hurricane, which slammed into Mexico's northern Gulf coast last week.

Garza said 12 floodgates had been opened but authorities were unable to open 17 others because of electrical failures. He said the dam was releasing 600 cubic meters per second into the Salado River, a tributary of the Rio Grande, but could overflow soon.

"The situation is very critical," Garza said at a news conference.

Authorities said they were being careful about releasing water from dams into already swollen rivers.

Sally Spener, public affairs officer for the International Boundary and Water Commission — which operates the Amistad dam — said it had tried to limit releases Monday "so that we would not exacerbate the flooding."

North of Ciudad Anahuac in Texas, officials in Laredo were preparing to close one of its international bridges before the Rio Grande crested late Wednesday or Thursday.

Bridge One, which links downtown Laredo to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, was expected to close Wednesday night before the river crested at an expected 33 feet.

But Laredo spokeswoman Xochitl Mora said the span could close sooner because officials worried that pressure from the water flow could damage the bridge. The other three bridges linking the cities would remain open.

Hurricane Alex caused severe flooding in northeastern Mexico and swelled several rivers that feed into the dam. It has continued raining in the region.

Officials were also evacuating 2,000 people near the swollen Rio Escondido in the region, Piedras Negras Mayor Jose Manuel Maldonado said.

At least 12 people were killed last week during the storm, said Gov. Rodrigo Medina of Nuevo Leon state, where Ciudad Anahuac is located. Three people are missing.

Some 130,000 people were without water, and that did not count some communities in mountainous regions that were cut off, Medina de la Cruz told Televisa network. He appealed for helicopters to help reach isolated communities with water and other supplies.

Alex caused the most damage in Nuevo Leon, though it was down to tropical storm force by the time it hit the inland state.

The key business city of Monterrey saw major streets turned to rampaging rivers that gashed ravines through the pavement down to sewage lines and buried vehicles window deep in rocks and sand.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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