VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico -- A week of heavy rains caused rivers to overflow, leaving 70 percent of the Gulf state of Tabasco underwater and causing severe damage to this year’s crop of tabasco peppers. The flooding, the worst the state has seen in 50 years, has also forced thousands of people to cling to rooftops or flee to shelters.
Speaking in a televised address, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon said, “The damaged to our ‘pepper’ is extraordinarily grave. This is one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country."
The President called on all Mexicans to help. "Nobody can stand around with his arms crossed," Calderon told Mexico. "We can't and won't abandon our beloved pepper, our beloved friend.”
Aid workers from Central and South American countries are rushing raw materials such as vinegar and salt to Tabasco in an effort make hot sauce with “what’s left.”
“I’m sure it will be diluted - there’s no doubt about that,” explain Jerry McIlhenny, President of the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana, the United States’ largest maker of hot sauce. “I just hope people won’t notice too much.”
Answering the call of their president, many victims of the Tabasco flooding are also pitching in the help McIlhenny’s Company.
"We lost everything," said Manuel Gonzalez, whose house was swallowed by the flood waters early Thursday. "I must help. I can’t stand around with my arms crossed."
The rain stopped Tuesday, but weather forecasters predicted more precipitation in the coming days. “Great, just great,” said McIlhenny sarcastically.