PANAMA CITY – At least 74 people have died and thousands of others have been affected by the torrential rains in Central America, officials said Sunday.
The downpours in El Salvador have left “27 people dead, the majority of them from mudslides that hit their dwellings,” emergency management office director Jorge Melendez said.
A total of 13,874 people are now in 209 shelters in the Central American country, Melendez said.
“The situation is going to be really complicated” because the rains are expected to continue until at least Tuesday, Melendez said.
Residents of high risk areas should heed orders from emergency management officials and move into shelters, which are being stocked with food, medicines and other aid, Melendez said.
In neighboring Guatemala, meanwhile, 28 people have died and officials declared a state of emergency.
The 30-day emergency declaration will allow officials to access funds to deal with the torrential rains, which have affected more than 147,000 people, President Alvaro Colom said Sunday.
Twenty people have been injured and two others are missing in the rains, Guatemalan national emergency management office chief Alejandro Maldonado said.
More than 6,900 people have been evacuated and 5,520 are living in shelters, Maldonado said.
The death toll is expected to rise over the next few hours as rescue teams and army troops search for storm victims across the affected areas in Guatemala, officials said.
The rains, which intensified in Guatemala around noon on Saturday, are being produced by a new low-pressure system on the Caribbean coast, the weather service said.
The rains are affecting Izabal, Peten, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango provinces, as well as the Pacific coast, weather service director Eddy Sanchez said.
The death toll in Honduras has risen to 12, national emergency management chief Lisandro Rosales said Sunday.
“Unfortunately, we now have 12 dead across the country between Oct. 10 and Oct. 15,” Rosales told reporters.
The torrential rains prevented President Porfirio Lobo’s plane from landing Saturday in Tegucigalpa on his return from the Vatican, and he ended up in San Salvador, El Salvador.
At least seven people have died since last Tuesday in Nicaragua, where 12 of 15 provinces are on alert, the government said.