23 die as hurricane rains hit Central America

October 13, 2011 3:16 am0 commentsViews:

Mexico City: At least 23 people died Wednesday as torrential rain from Hurricane Jova and two other tropical storms caused deadly flash-floods and landslides in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico.

Thousands were evacuated, including about 5,000 in El Salvador, more than 3,500 people in Guatemala and at least 3,400 in and around Mexico's port city of Manzanillo, reported Xinhua.

Mexican emergency personnel, led by the country's armed forces and navy, said they remained on "maximum alert" as powerful rains are forecast to last for several days, threatening further flooding and landslides in up to 12 states.

In Mexico's Jalisco state, at least four people were killed, including a 21-year-old woman and her five-year-old daughter, who died after their house was buried under a landslide.

Hurricane Jova, which hit Mexico's Pacific coast as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of more than 160 km per hour, quickly weakened as it moved slowly north.

"Jova continues to weaken but heavy rainfalls remains a major threat," said the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), adding rainfalls of up to 500 millimetres were expected and "these rains could cause life-threatening flash-floods and mud slides over steep terrain".

But just as the effects of Jova started to abate, tropical storm Irwin struck off Mexico's Pacific coast, while a new storm system known as 12-E formed over Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.

By early afternoon Wednesday, 12-E had caused at least 13 deaths in Guatemala, two in El Salvador and four in Nicaragua.

Guatemala was the worst-hit area, with President Alvaro Colom declaring a red alert for the entire country.

"I recommend the population to be very careful and to stay away from the river banks," Colom told the media.

In El Salvador, landslides forced all schools in eight provinces, including the capital district of San Salvador to suspend classes.

Civil protection officer Jorge Mendez said 75 landslides had so far been reported.

In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega said four people had died due to the rains and declared an alert for all communities along the Pacific coast.

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