Tropical Storm Stan only briefly reached hurricane strength but by Thursday killed at least 160 people as it roared across Mexico and Central America.
Forecasters warn the remnants of Stan can still produce heavy rains and trigger severe flooding and landslides for the next days.
The storm killed at least 79 people in Guatemala, said President Oscar Berger, speaking late on Wednesday at the government’s disaster-prevention office.
Berger said there were also hundreds of people injured and thousands displaced by the heavy rain, which resulted in a ”state of public calamity” in Guatemala.
Officials also blame Stan for the deaths of 62 in El Salvador, 11 in Nicaragua and eight in Mexico, according to figures from rescuers and government officials.
The storm slammed ashore as a hurricane in Mexico’s state of Veracruz early on Tuesday. Stan was downgraded to a tropical depression by the end of the day, but caused major flooding and landslides in southern Mexico and Central America.
In Guatemala, Berger declared a state of emergency, which suspends some constitutional guarantees.
On a visit to the most severely affected areas, Berger said he saw ”serious damage to the road-network infrastructure and electrical energy connections”.
In El Salvador, a spokesperson for that country’s Red Cross described the storm as ”is bigger than the rescue capacity”.
”We have floods everywhere, bridges about to collapse, landslides and dozens of roads blocked by mudslides,” the spokesperson said.
Salvadoran President Antonio Saca, who toured affected areas in his small Central American country, warned that heavy rainfall would continue through Thursday, and urged residents in threatened areas to evacuate.
Almost 34 000 Salvadorans have already fled, not only from the threat of mudslides and flash floods, but also from the eruption of the Santa Ana volcano, which on Saturday killed two people.
Dozens of landslides were reported across the country, causing many of the 50 deaths blamed on Stan. The Panamerican highway leading to the capital, San Salvador, was cut off by mudslides, as were several other roads.
”The situation is more than critical,” said Raul Murillo, spokesperson of the National Emergency Commission.
The United States embassy said it was donating $50 000 to aid efforts, while the German government announced it was offering $238 940 in emergency assistance.
Thousands flee in Mexico
In Mexico, more than 100 000 people were forced to flee their homes, and state oil company Pemex had evacuated 270 workers from its offshore platforms before the storm hit land.
In the impoverished, mountainous Mexican state of Chiapas, the pounding rain caused several rivers to overflow their banks, smashing homes near the Guatemalan border, causing bridges to collapse and flooding roads.
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, has been one of the deadliest and most active on record.
Hurricane Katrina, which slammed ashore on the US Gulf of Mexico coast August 29, ravaged New Orleans and coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, killing more than 1 200 people and becoming the deadliest storm to hit the US since 1928.
Stan was the 10th Atlantic hurricane this year. As Stan dumped rain over Mexico and Central America, Tropical Storm Tammy formed in the Atlantic. Tammy was running parallel to Florida’s east coast on Wednesday, just 32km offshore.
According to Weather.com, tropical-storm warnings are in effect from South Carolina to northern Florida.
Landfall occurred on Wednesday night, and persistent rain guided by onshore winds across north-east Florida and southern Georgia and South Carolina continues to be the primary threat. — AFP