Tropical Storm Agatha’s torrential rains, landslides kill 83 in 3 Central American countriesBy Juan Carlos Llorca, AP
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Tropical storm kills 83 in Central America
GUATEMALA CITY — The death toll in Central America from landslides and flooding triggered by the year’s first tropical storm surged to 83 on Sunday, as authorities struggled to clear roads of debris and reach cut-off communities.
Torrential rains that have pounded an area stretching from southern Mexico nearly to Nicaragua eased somewhat, as rivers continued to rise and word filtered out from isolated areas of more deaths in landslides.
In Guatemala, 73 people were killed as rains unleashed lethal landslides across the country, according to government disaster relief spokesman David de Leon.
Tropical Storm Agatha made landfall near the nation’s border with Mexico with winds up to 45 mph (75 kph) on Saturday and was dissipating rapidly Sunday over the mountains of western Guatemala.
In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes warned that the danger had not yet passed and reported nine deaths.
“Although the storm appears to be diminishing in intensity, the situation across the country remains critical,” Funes said.
In Honduras, one death was linked to the weather, and a fishing boat was missing off the Pacific coast with eight aboard.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami warned that remnants of the storm were expected to deliver 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador.
Nervous residents still remember Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which parked over Central America for days, causing flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000 people and left more than 8,000 missing.
As of Sunday afternoon, 75,000 people in Guatemala had been evacuated, many to shelters. At least 3,500 homes sustained major damage.
Thirteen died in one landslide that tore through the community of San Antonio Palopo on the steep banks of Lake Atitlan, a popular tourist attraction 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Guatemala City.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said 4.3 inches (10.8 centimeters) of rain had fallen in Guatemala City’s valley in one 12-hours period.
The rains unleashed chaos in the department of Quetzaltenango, 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Guatemala City, where a boulder loosened by rains crushed a house, killing four people including two children. Four children were killed when rain-soaked earth gave way in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, about six miles (10 kilometers) outside the capital.
Cesar George of Guatemala’s meteorological institute said the coastal community of Champerico had received 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in 30 hours.
Rainfall from the Guatemalan interior also flooded rivers coursing away from the storm toward the Atlantic. The Motagua River flooded 19 communities near Guatemala’s northeastern border with Honduras.
In El Salvador, there were at least 140 landslides throughout the country.
Civil defense officials said the Acelhuate River that passes through the capital, San Salvador, had risen to dangerous levels and was threatening to overflow into city streets.
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras all declared emergencies designed to increase immediate government aid and resources.
Guatemala City’s La Aurora airport remained closed Sunday because of heavy ash that fell from last week’s eruptions of Pacaya volcano. But volcanic activity had tapered off Sunday , allowing helicopters and small planes to deliver aid to communities still unreachable on washed out roads.
The Honduran national emergency agency Copeco reported one man was crushed to death by a wall that collapsed in the town of Santa Ana, near the capital of Tegucigalpa.
Flooding and slides destroyed 45 homes in the Honduras and prompted authorities to evacuate 1,800 people, according to figures released by the agency.
Associated Press writers Marcos Aleman in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Freddy Cuevas in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, contributed to this report.
Tags: Central America, El Salvador, Emergency Management, Floods, Guatemala, Guatemala City, Honduras, Latin America And Caribbean, Mexico, Missing Persons, Municipal Governments, North America, San Salvador, Storms, Tegucigalpa, Tropical-weather