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Inundated state

VILLAHERMOSA Mexico — Sitting in the dark on the roof of his neighborhood supermarket Daniel Gallegos could hear the sound of the pouring rain accompanied by the occasional clap of thunder and the rushing of water all around him.
Photo courtesy Roberto CastenedaMissionaries of Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission clean furniture. All 28 missionaries in Villahermosa lost their dwellings and are now helping.
Photo courtesy Roberto CastenedaWith 70 percent of the state of Tabasco under water more than 300 LDS homes have been flooded. Red-roofed building center is Gaviotas Ward meetinghouse. Floods did not reach the Villahermosa temple.
Everything had happened so fast for Brother Gallegos of the Gaviotas Ward Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake that now as he sat on that roof with more than 30 other neighbors waiting to be rescued all he could do was reflect on the events of the day and how a storm had just turned his life upside down.
The storm responsible for the flood first affected Haiti where uninterrupted rain inundated many sections of the Caribbean nation. Thousands had to be moved to temporary shelter according to Port-au-Prince Haiti North Stake President Gheuthewannha Francillon.
The Church has provided for water and shelter for more than 2000 people member and non-member alike. A Church-owned building in Les Cayes City has been used as a shelter.
In the Dominican Republic wrote public affairs missionary Elder Duane Hiatt much of the rice potatos bananas and plantains crops were destroyed. Members have received emergency supplies. In addition more than 2500 packages containing food soap and other emergency supplies were distributed to their neighbors in communities in the western part of the island.
Weeks after intense rainfall left 70 percent of the state of Tabasco underwater members of the Villahermosa and the Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake continue to clean and rebuild homes and meetinghouses as receding waters begin to reveal the real extent of the damage.
Volunteer and relief efforts have been coordinated under the direction of Mexico Area president Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen of the Seventy who visited the area for two days to assess needs of the members. Local boat owners have been contracted to rescue stranded members and take others to their homes to salvage what they can. Bishops are distributing food to members housing flood victims in their own homes.
Even before the storm reached Villahermosa on the east coast of Mexico its residents had been wary of the nearby lagoon Laguna del Camaron and its potential to flood. Around 2 p.m. on Oct. 28 torrential rains raised the water level in the lagoon to a critical point. Ten minutes later water broke through the rim charging through the streets obliterating one home.
Within minutes water reached the Gallegos residence and Brother Gallegos felt the water reaching his ankles. In 30 minutes the Grijalva River also overflowed bringing the water level to his chest. He quickly took his family and waded to the nearby grocery store. They climbed the roof and joined other neighbors there taking nothing with them but the clothes on their backs.
As night fell the comforting sound of rescue helicopters ceased. Everyone knew they could do nothing more but wait for dawn.
We made markings to track the water level. Every hour we would watch as our markings went underwater said Brother Gallegos.
There were those of our neighbors who had lost all hope and were losing control. Some didnt know how to swim. We assured them that we would be OK but began to make plans in case the water reached us.
The group survived through the night however but was not rescued until 4 p.m. the following day. By then 15 centimeters of roof separated them from the water. The rescue itself was not easy having to avoid power lines before finally climbing from their rescue boat to a hovering helicopter. Alligators had also escaped from a nearby lagoon and posed a threat.
Two weeks later Brother Gallegos and his family reside in a meetinghouse belonging to one of the neighboring stakes along with about 100 other members as he waits to return to his home and start the rebuilding process.
Ive lost everything he said. My entire home is gone. My car everything. But he added were doing fine. We are alive and thats whats important.
Weeks after intense rainfall left 70 percent of the state of Tabasco underwater members of the Villahermosa and the Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake continue to clean and rebuild homes and meetinghouses as receding waters begin to reveal the real extent of the damage.
Everyday weve been checking in with each ward affected finding which homes are still underwater and which homes are ready to be cleaned said President Jose Fernandez Chiu second counselor in the Villahermosa Mexico Stake presidency. He said as of Nov. 13 there were still 216 submerged homes another 43 that have been cleaned and 34 being cleaned by members.
Four meetinghouses continue to function as shelters for 215 displaced members with perhaps twice as many staying in homes of fellow ward members family or friends said President Chiu.
Roberto Castaneda of the Primero de Mayo Ward Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake and CES coordinator said he is comforted knowing his family will be staying with parents in Mexico City although he himself will be living out of his office for at least the next month.
He recently visited what was left of his two-story home.
I felt a bit sad he said. I thought about those first few years here when my wife and I struggled to purchase everything we had one thing at a time.
In the coming weeks as members cope with the extent of their losses and try to rebuild their community President Chiu said the most comforting news is that not one member was lost in the disaster.
There is an interesting unity among members said Brother Casteneda. Here there are no stakes or wards we are all simply one great unit.
E-mail to: cmorales@desnews.com

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