December 29, 2000

Northern Mexico suffers worst winter in 20 years

                  MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Northern Mexico was put on alert Friday after
                  a cold front dropped temperatures even further this week in the region where an
                  unusually cold winter -- the coldest in 20 years in some parts -- has caused more
                  than 60 deaths since October, local media reported.

                  Hypothermia and affixation from using propane gas stoves as heaters have
                  caused the majority of deaths in the region, where few homes have heating.
                  Many of the deaths were from poor families living in shacks made of cardboard
                  and wood slats.

                  In the border city of Tijuana across from California, two babies died in the past
                  week from exposure after the cold whipped through their humble homes, the
                  Mexico City newspaper Reforma reported Friday.

                  In the northern state of Tamaulipas across from Texas, cold weather has killed
                  five children and an 83-year-old woman in December, the Mexico City
                  newspaper Universal reported Friday. The deaths were caused by exposure and
                  respiratory illnesses related to the cold.

                  In the central state of Zacatecas, four children under the age of five have died
                  this month from respiratory illnesses related to the cold, Universal reported.

                  In the northern state of Chihuahua, 49 people have died this year from exposure,
                  respiratory illness, hypothermia and asphyxiation -- all related to the low
                  temperatures, officials said.

                  Officials in Mexican states bordering the United States were passing out
                  thousands of blankets and food baskets to the poor Friday. Police were advised
                  to take anyone found sleeping on the streets to shelters.

                  In the northern Mexican town of Nogales across from Arizona, temperatures
                  dropped to -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), the lowest in 20 years,
                  officials said.

                  Authorities closed ports along the Gulf of Mexico from the Texas border to the

                  The forecast called for more days of cold and possible snow fall in the
                  mountains of northern Mexico and along the base of the Nevado de Toluca
                  volcano outside Mexico City.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.