MONTERREY, Mexico – Heavy rains caused two dams to burst, sending a wave of floodwaters roaring over villages in central Mexico, where authorities said at least eight people were killed and six others were missing and feared dead.
Federal officials put the death toll much higher, reporting that 14 people died and 17 were missing in the states of San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas, where the dams broke.
Rains eased Friday and skies were clearing. Yet federal and state officials warned that three other dams were at their limit.
In San Luis Potosi, the Los Dolores dam buckled under heavy rains early Thursday, flooding the nearby municipality of Villa de Reyes. Water gushed through the streets, reaching the rooftops of many houses and completely washing away dozens of others. The strong current carried along cows, cars and people struggling to pull themselves to safety.
Cleto Gonzalez told the Pulso newspaper in San Luis Potosi that he awoke shortly after 2 a.m. to find his bed surrounded by water.
"My furniture was bobbing along, and I immediately woke up my family and took them to a safe place," he said.
Some residents said they heard the boom of the 16th century dam breaking, releasing 1.23 million cubic feet of water.
Authorities in the city of San Luis Potosi, the state's capital, said seven people were killed and five others were missing and feared dead.
Civil defense authorities declared a state of emergency in Villa de Reyes and several surrounding areas. Nearly 2,000 people were left homeless by the floods and spent Thursday night sleeping in hundreds of hastily constructed government shelters, authorities said.
A statement released by the Interior Ministry, some 220 miles away in Mexico City, painted a grimmer picture, reporting that flood waters in Villa de Reyes killed 13 people, left 15 others missing and destroyed 3,000 homes.
Nearly 24 hours after the Los Dolores dam failed, TV images showed the corpses of drowned cows floating past Villa de Reyes residents as they struggled to make their way through streets still submerged by waist-high water.
In neighboring Zacatecas state, the El Capulin dam burst early Thursday, unleashing a torrent of water on the city of Villa Garcia, where one farmer drowned and two other residents still were missing, both federal and state authorities reported.
Authorities declared a state of emergency in Villa Garcia and two other Zacatecas cities. Rain waters in the area briefly displaced 3,000 people, but most of those were able to go back to their homes by late Thursday, a state spokesman said.