GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Flooding and landslides from the season's
first tropical storm have killed at least 150 people and made
thousands homeless in Central America, officials said.
Dozens of people were missing and emergency crews struggled to
reach isolated communities cut off by washed-out roads and
collapsed bridges caused by Tropical Storm Agatha.
The sun emerged Monday in hardest-hit Guatemala, where officials
reported 123 dead and at least 90 missing. In the department of
Chimaltenango - a province west of Guatemala City - landslides
buried dozens of rural Indian communities and killed at least 60
people, Gov. Erick de Leon said.
"The department has collapsed," de Leon said. "There are a
lot of dead people. The roads are blocked. The shelters are
overflowing. We need water, food, clothes, blankets - but above
In the tiny village of Parajbei, a slide smothered three homes
and killed 11 people.
"It was raining really hard and there was a huge noise," said
Vicente Azcaj, 56, who ran outside and saw that a hill had
crumbled. "Now everyone is afraid that the same will happen to
Volunteers from nearby villages worked nonstop since Sunday to
recover the bodies in Parajbei, and on Monday they found the last
two: brothers, 4 and 8 years old, who were buried under tons of
dirt, rocks and trees.
As a thank-you, rescuers got a plate of rice and beans from the
mayor of nearby Santa Apolonia.
"It's a small thing, but it comes from the heart," Tulio Nunez
told them through a translator.
Nunez said he worried about the well-being of survivors in the
area because landslides blocked roads and broke water pipes.
"They don't have anything to drink," he said.
In all some 110,000 people were evacuated in Guatemala.
Thousands more fled their homes in neighboring Honduras, where
the death toll rose to 17 while meteorologists predicted three more
days of rain.
Two dams near the capital of Tegucigalpa overflowed into a
nearby river, and officials warned people to stay away from swollen
"The risk is enormous," Mayor Ricardo Alvarez said.
In El Salvador, 11,000 people were evacuated. The death toll
rose to 10 and two others were missing, President Mauricio Funes
said Monday night.
About 95 percent of the country's roads were affected by
landslides, but most remained open, Transportation Minister Gerson
Martinez said. He said 179 bridges had been wrecked.
The Lempa River, which flows to the Pacific, topped its banks
and flooded at least 20 villages, affecting some 6,000 people, said
Jorge Melendez, director of the Civil Protection Agency.
Officials warned that the Acelhuate River, which cuts through
San Salvador, was running at dangerously high levels and threatened
to spill over into the capital's streets.
Melendez said classes would be suspended Tuesday in all primary
and secondary schools and public and private universities across El
Agatha made landfall near the Guatemala-Mexico border Saturday
as a tropical storm with winds up to 45 mph (75 kph). It dissipated
the following day over the mountains of western Guatemala.
The rising death toll is reminding nervous residents of
Hurricane Mitch, which hovered over Central America for days in
1998, causing flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000
people and left more than 8,000 missing and unaccounted for.
Rescue efforts in Guatemala have been complicated by a volcanic
eruption Thursday near the capital that blanketed parts of the area