Thunderstorms dropped more rain Tuesday night as rescuers combing the rubble left by a deadly flood on the U.S.-Mexican border found no new victims. Officials expressed fear that people might be trapped in houses not yet reached.
Del Rio, a city of 30,000 on the Rio Grande, was deluged with 18 inches of rain during the weekend by the remnants of Tropical Storm Charley after it struck the Texas coast and moved inland.
Gov. George W. Bush visited Del Rio this morning, promising to seek as much disaster aid "as the federal government will give." Bush said White House officials today declared the area will be eligible for federal assistance.
The new storms spurred a mandatory evacuation along San Felipe Creek.
"It's coming down, and it's coming down pretty hard. . . . They don't want to take any chances," said Rita Nunez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Border Patrol.
The rains turned rivers and creeks into torrents that swept away cars and entire houses. City streets were filled with as much as eight feet of water. The town's average annual rainfall is 17 inches.
At least 14 people on both sides of the border died in the floods, including six in Del Rio, and as many as 35 people were unaccounted for. Some or all of these could simply be out of town or out of touch, officials said.
Tom Lavagnino, spokesman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said helicopter teams and ground-based crews using search dogs had combed the debris-strewn areas left behind by the receding floodwaters without finding any more bodies. The rescue effort was to continue today, he added.
"There are still over 400 homes they haven't searched. There could very easily be some people trapped in those homes," Lavagnino said.
The Rio Grande, which forms the border between Texas and Mexico and is normally placid enough for immigrants to swim across, spilled out of its banks and became a mile-wide force that rose 22 feet above flood stage.