San Diegans with relatives struggling in Mexico from devastating flooding waited days for word from small villages left without food, water and basic supplies.
On Friday, Mexican authorities were helping to move emergency supplies and aid victims of massive flooding caused by a series of storms including Tropical Storm Manuel.
Officials report 97 deaths and more than 1 million people have been affected.
San Diego resident Mark Lane said he and his wife, Judith Benitez, are hearing reports of massive mudslides, piles of bodies, orphaned children and people living without food or water in small villages along Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Benitez’ sister, mother and grandmother live in Hacienda de Cabañas in Guerrero-Mexico, located about 90 minutes north of Acapulco. Water from a dam above the village flooded the area, destroying and damaging many homes.
“You think is the worst,” Benitez said through a translator. “You think the worst possible thing is happening.”
After three days without any communication from her family, Benitez was just getting reports Thursday from phone calls and Facebook messages including photos showing water-filled streets of the small, old village and residents stranded on rooftops.
Then suddenly the couple received a phone call from Benitez' aunt describing more rain, rising water and power outages.
The aunt’s home hasn’t been flooded yet but she’s concerned about the government’s need to release water from another dam up river.
As Benitez talked on the phone, her husband translated.
“She's telling her to be careful and be ready in case they need to come evacuate them so she’s ready to go,” he said, explaining the conversation.
Benitez said she feels desperate because her mother’s medicine has run out.
“We’re trying to get them food. They need diapers, they need toothpaste, they need the basic things, they need baby formula,” Lane said. “Whatever was on the first floor of the houses, it was that fast, the stuff is gone.”
He and others in San Diego are trying to find a way to get supplies to the small community even if it means finding a helicopter company to airlift the resources.
“If the bridges are all out, there’s no way to do it by land,” Lane said.
Their friend Jorge Luis Romero, has been having the same difficulties contacting his relatives.
"My family, my grandma, the rest of my family, my aunts, are all are over there and they don't have help from the government yet,” he said.
When some phone lines were repaired Thursday morning, Romero was able to speak with his grandmother.
“When I heard her voice I almost cried,” he said, tears welling in his eyes. “I got chills all over my body.”
Now, he’s worried because supplies at the village store are depleted. He was collecting flats of bottled water as he spoke with NBC 7 about his hometown.
“We are a small village. We’re apart from the big city,” Romero explained. “A small town, they don’t have any help.”
For Lane and Benitez, it has been frustrating trying to find a way to send a garage-full of supplies gathered from friends and neighbors.
Part of the uncertainty includes finding a bank that will help them send money safely.
In the meantime, all who want to help are invited to bring supplies or donations to a picnic and fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 22 from Noon to 6 p.m., at Mountain View Park, in San Diego.