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Storm kills 179 in Central America


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Storm kills 179  in Central America

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GUATEMALA CITY – Rural villagers used hoes and pick axes to hunt for victims of landslides that have killed at least 179 people in Central America, while officials in Guatemala’s capital tried  to cope with a vast sinkhole that swallowed  a clothing factory.
Thousands remained homeless and dozens still missing following the season’s first tropical storm. Rescue crews struggled to reach isolated communities to distribute food and water.
“This is a total  tragedy,” said Jose Vicente Samayoa, president of a neighbourhood group  in Amatitlan, a flooded  town south  of Guatemala’s capital.
Officials in Guatemala reported 152 dead but said 100 people were still missing. In the department of Chimaltenango –  a province west of Guatemala City – landslides buried rural Indian communities and killed at least 60 people.
Curious onlookers also gathered at a massive sinkhole that swallowed an entire intersection in Guatemala City over the weekend, gulping down  a clothing factory but causing no deaths or injuries.
Authorities estimate the hole is 65 feet (20 metres) deep and say it was caused by water  from Tropical Storm Agatha. Nearly 125 000 people were evacuated in Guatemala and thousands more fled their homes  in neighbouring Honduras, where the death toll rose  to 17 after two youths disappeared while bathing  in a turbulent river despite official warnings  to stay away from swollen waterways.
Most schools also resumed classes yesterday  in Honduras. In El Salvador, 11 000 people were evacuated.  The death toll rose to ten and two others were missing, President Mauricio Funes said on Monday night.
About 95 per cent 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.
Agatha made landfall near the Guatemala-Mexico border on Saturday with tropical storm winds  of up to 45 mph (75 kph). It dissipated the following day over the mountains of western Guatemala.  (AP)

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