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Monsoon floods wash two bodies from Mexico to Arizona

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Monsoon floods wash two bodies across the border in Nogales from Mexico to Arizona

Nogales Police recovered a body Wednesday morning, while the search continued for a possible second body washed by monsoon flooding from Mexico.

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Monsoon floods wash two bodies across the border in Nogales from Mexico to Arizona

Rafael Carranza, Arizona Republic Published 7:19 p.m. MT Sept. 19, 2018 | Updated 7:56 p.m. MT Sept. 19, 2018
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Time lapse over 30 minutes of a monsoon storm over Phoenix as the sun sets on Aug. 23, 2018. Arizona Republic

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Police recovered on Wednesday the body of a man dragged by heavy monsoon flooding from Nogales, Sonora, to its twin city on the American side of the border, as authorities continued searching for a possible second body dragged northbound by the rains the day before.

Videos of a body being dragged by the flooding had circulated widely on social media by Tuesday evening. The images show the murky brown waters moving rapidly along the wash when at one point the limp body of a man is spotted face down, being swept downstream.

WARNING: Video includes graphic footage.

Imágenes fuertes.

En el video publicado se puede ver cuando un hombre es arrastrado por el agua. El cuerpo fue observado en el arroyo en Nogales, Arizona y no fue posible rescatarlo de inmediato.

Pasadas las 6 de la tarde no habían localizado el cuerpo. pic.twitter.com/iDKnGuAzIh

— César Barrón (@barron_cesar) September 19, 2018

Several law enforcement agencies in the U.S. responded on Tuesday at about 4:30 p.m. to unconfirmed reports from their counterparts in Mexico of two bodies being swept across the border.

Officers and sheriff's deputies spotted one body well past the border, and past Nogales city limits on Tuesday afternoon. They attempted unsuccessfully to recover the remains at various points along the Nogales Wash due to speed and strength of the current.

Then on Wednesday morning, Nogales Police received a call about the remains of another body spotted on the wash, but this time, much closer to the border, near the city's downtown. Police said they're unable to determine so far if it's the same person.

"We're still making contact with Mexican authorities and it can't be confirmed because they're still trying to figure out if it's somebody missing from them and swept away," Officer Oscar Mesta said. "We're still trying to figure out if it's the same one from yesterday. We don't know."

As strong monsoon storms moved into the sister cities, known colloquially as Ambos Nogales, on Tuesday afternoon residents uploaded numerous videos and photos of the flooding in the area.

The floods are not uncommon during the Monsoon season. Nogales, Sonora is a densely built city of 350,000 people perched along deep canyons. When heavy storms hit, large amounts of water collect along ravines and washes. But because the Mexican city sits at a higher elevation, the rainwater ends up draining northbound into Arizona.

Authorities said that, as a result, calls to recover remains from washes are also not that uncommon.

"I would say about every monsoon season, we at least get one," Jenny Jeong, who is the public information officer for the Rio Rico Fire Department, which also took part in the search and recovery efforts on Tuesday afternoon.

Jeong said several firefighters "easily" spotted the first body along the Nogales Wash on Tuesday afternoon, after being notified by Nogales Police. They got into place to try to extract it from the water using ropes.

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"The wash does move pretty fast," she said. "They tried to keep up with it, but they couldn't. So that's why there was only one attempt in trying to recover the body on Rio Rico side."

Calls to Civil Protection in Nogales, Sonora, the city's emergency response agency, went unanswered Wednesday as more storms and rain moved in over the twin cities.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said that after a few attempts to recover the first body on Tuesday, they had to call off the recovery efforts until the weather improved.

"The water was not receding, it was too risky for anybody to be out there looking, so we elected to wait maybe until tomorrow or Friday to have the water go down a little bit," he said. "Then maybe we'll have better luck."

Mesta said the body Nogales police recovered on Wednesday morning has not been identified yet. His remains will be transported to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Tucson for an autopsy.

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