Hurricane Alex brings floods to north-east Mexico

Image caption,
The Santa Catarina river raged through Monterrey

Hurricane Alex has brought torrential rain as it weakened to a tropical storm over northeastern Mexico, flooding the city of Monterrey.

At least two people were killed when a river burst its banks, inundating roads and washing away cars.

Alex was a category two hurricane when it hit the Gulf coast on Wednesday night, but lost force as it moved inland.

It was expected to dissipate over the Mexican highlands on Friday.

The usually dry Santa Catarina river that runs through the centre of Monterrey turned into a raging torrent, flooding major highways and paralysing Mexico's third-biggest city.

One man died after he was swept nearly 500 metres by the waters and trapped against a fence. The body of another drowned man was found in a creek.

Virgin toppled

A 12-tonne statue of the revered Virgin of Guadalupe was knocked off its plinth on the river bank.

Flood waters also hit the city zoo, sweeping animals including buffalo from their pens, the Reuters news agency reported.

Alex was the first hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season, and the first to appear in June since 1995.

It caused severe flooding along Mexico's Gulf coast when it made landfall on Wednesday night.

Image caption,
The coastal town of Matamoros also suffered

Emergency workers in the port city of Matamoros have been using boats to assess the damage in some neighbourhoods.

"The city is practically under water" the director of civil defence, Saul Hernandez, told the AP news agency.

"But the most important thing is there was no loss of life. We took opportune measures to evacuate people"

Thousands of people in coastal villages were moved to higher ground before the storm hit.

Many towns were left without electricity, and phone lines were also down.

Heavy seas caused by the storm also disrupted BP's oil spill clean-up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex largely spared the US state of Texas, which had prepared for a possible direct hit.

It brought heavy rain and caused at least two tornadoes, but there were no reports of injuries or major damage.

However, there are still warnings of possible flash-flooding in some areas of the state.

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