08-10-05

Flooding causes chaos in Central America - the associated press - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2005

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With food and water running out, governments in Central America and Mexico scrambled Friday to reach isolated areas devastated by a week of intense rains and residents who spoke to reporters via cell phone said panic was starting to grow among survivors.
Mudslides and flooding have left 258 people dead across the region. Guatemala has borne the brunt of heavy rains exacerbated by Hurricane Stan, which made landfall Tuesday in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz before quickly weakening into a tropical depression.
Increasing fears Friday was a preliminary-magnitude 5.8 earthquake that shuddered through both Guatemala and El Salvador, collapsing a rain-damaged highway bridge in the former country and sending thousands of frightened Salvadoran residents into the streets.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake. Telephone service was cut off briefly in some areas of El Salvador, and Interior Minister Rene Figueroa urged residents to obey evacuation orders for high-risk areas.
The quake also forced officials to suspend their search for two coffee workers missing since Saturday when the Ilamatepec volcano erupted about 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital, San Salvador.
Authorities warned the volcano, 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of San Salvador, could explode again.
The temblor struck before residents had even begun to recover from the five days of heavy rains.
''We need food, clothing, medicine and help,'' said Lucas Ajpus, a former firefighter coordinating rescue efforts in Santiago Atitlan, the Guatemalan city near landslides that hit four villages.
At least 50 bodies have been recovered, bringing the death toll in this Central American country to 160. Workers continued to search for more than 100 people still missing after the side of a volcano collapsed. ''We've been pulling bodies out for two days, and we've found 50 in an area encompassing 100 square meters'' (1,075 square feet), Ajpus said. ''There's still a lot to be done, because two towns have disappeared completely.''
In Pathulul, 30 miles (50 kilometers) away from Santiago Atitlan and as close to the landslide site as an Associated Press reporter could get Thursday, creeks that normally stream down from the highlands had turned into raging rivers, cluttered with rocks, branches and chunks of debris.
Guatemalan officials organized an air-rescue squad of their own helicopters as well as those lent by the United States and neighboring Mexico. But poor weather conditions prevented them from taking off until Friday.
''We are going to review reconstruction policies and other important avenues to restore our country,'' Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said.
Residents and tourists in Panajachel, on the banks of Lake Atitlan, said they needed aid.
''Water is running out, food is running out and looters are coming now,'' said Stephanie Jolluck, a 32-year-old businesswoman from Atlanta who was reached by telephone.
Jolluck, who has traveled to Guatemala for work since 1999, fought back tears as she described watching rivers grow from their usual width of 6 feet (2 meters) to more than 50 feet (15 meters).
Berger planned to personally visit the areas hit by landslides, including the town of Solola near Lake Atitlan, as well as the western province of San Marcos, on the border with Mexico, where residents cut off by floods have been pleading for help in telephone calls to radio stations.
The president also announced that government workers had used heavy machinery to clear fallen trees and earth from a portion of the InterAmerican Highway, allowing rescue workers to reach other previously isolated communities.
The country's important Pacific coast highway remained impassable, however, after raging rivers destroyed three bridges.

Stan kills: other article

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