CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico (AP) — The body of a baby carried away by a tornado was found Tuesday in the northern Mexico border city of Ciudad Acuna as the death toll from the sudden, devastating storm hit 14.
City spokesman Edgar Gonzalez said searchers found the body amid the rubble of shattered houses. It had been carried off by the force of the tornado, apparently from a car. Earlier reports suggested the child had been in a baby carrier.
Gonzalez said four people from one family are still missing, a day after the twister injured about 300 people, destroyed 800 homes and damaged about 4,000.
Some of the homes were reduced to mounds of cinderblock and rubble, making the search more difficult.
Gerardo Aguinaja and his sister, Perla Isabel, stood in front of a concrete slab where the family’s home and taco business had once stood.
The house had been flattened by the storm, and bulldozers were sent in Tuesday to clear off the rubble and allow the family to rescue any salvageable possessions. Gerardo was able to find only his stepfather’s wallet and a pair of mismatched shoes, all the family had left.
“I don’t have papers, I don’t have anything. There are a lot of people who lost everything,” said Perla Isabel Aguinaja. “We have no place to live.”
Their stepfather, Edgar Gerardo Gonzalez, 37, their mother, Alma Isabel, and Perla’s 5-year-old son, Bryan, were in the house when the twister hit.
Alma Isabel and Bryan hid under a bed as the home collapsed around them. She survived with back injuries and bruises, and Bryan suffered gashes to his head. Both are out of danger. But the stepfather was standing at the back of the house, leaning against a wall that fell on him, injuring him more seriously. Despite his wounds, the stepfather managed to dig himself out, rescue his wife and the boy and take them to a neighbor’s house.
Four adjacent houses also were flattened. In three, the only things left standing were the bathrooms, precisely the place where Mexican authorities advise people to take shelter in storms.
The tornado tossed cars like matchsticks, leaving many leaning against the facades of houses. President Enrique Pena Nieto arrived Monday to survey the damage and help coordinate rescue efforts. Bulldozers and cranes worked throughout the affected area, clearing rubble, fallen light posts and crumpled cars.
Questions began to center on the lack of any warning system, though tornados are infrequent in Mexico.
The last major tornado struck the nearby border city of Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas, to the southeast of Ciudad Acuna, in 2007, killing three people.
Coahuila state Gov. Ruben Moriera said the twister hit too suddenly — it touched ground for a matter of seconds — to give much warning.
“There were no alerts, not from the American side nor from here. There was no time for that, it was terribly rapid,” Moriera said late Monday.
Perla Isabel, who wasn’t home when the twister hit, said nobody saw it coming. “We never thought something like this would happen,” she said.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report from Mexico City.