Tropical Storm Agatha slammed into Guatemala's Pacific coast near the Mexican border on Saturday, lashing the region with torrential rains and killing at least five people.
Agatha, the first named storm of the 2010 Pacific hurricane season, brewed up on Saturday morning and quickly raced inland. It was blamed for the deaths of four people in Guatemala and one in El Salvador.
Guatemala declared a state of emergency as heavy rain hammered the Central American nation, triggering mudslides that cut off roads, buried houses and stoked fears about the fate of Central America's biggest coffee crop, already at risk due to a volcanic eruption.
Two adults and two children were killed when their home was buried in a mudslide in Alomolonga, 120 miles (200 km) west of the capital, emergency officials reported.
"This (storm) is serious. ... The worst will come around 9 a.m. (on Sunday) and we are extending the state of emergency to the entire country," President Alvaro Colom told a news conference, adding the government was evacuating many families from at-risk areas.
Emergency workers reported rivers were already swollen by heavy rain and warned flooding could be worse than usual due to ash from the erupting Pacaya volcano south of the capital that has blocked drainage systems.
In El Salvador, an elderly man was swept away by rainwater and dragged into a gully where he drowned, emergency officials reported.
Last November's Hurricane Ida triggered flooding and mudslides that killed at least 150 people as it moved north past Central America.
Heavy rain to continue
Agatha weakened as it moved inland but was expected to continue to dump heavy rain across the region through Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.
The storm was packing winds of 40 miles per hour (65 kph) and was expected to keep losing strength as it moved inland, the Miami-based hurricane center said.
It said the storm would dump up to 20 inches (50 cm) of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, and possibly as much as 30 inches (76 cm) in some areas, which could trigger flash floods and mudslides.
Heavy coastal flooding was also reported as the storm made landfall.
Civil defense officials in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas reported that rivers were swelling and said they were preparing to shelter people who may need to leave their homes.
Rivers in some parts of the state burst their banks and roads were flooded.
Some 2,000 people in Guatemala have already been evacuated due to the eruption of Pacaya, 25 miles (40 km) south of Guatemala City. At least one death has been blamed on the eruption and the country's main international airport has been shut by ash until at least early next week.
The volcano remained active but the intensity of its activity seemed to be less, civil defense officials said.
Pacaya has been active since the 1960s but had not ejected rocks and ash since 1998.
The volcano is close to some of Guatemala's most prized coffee plantations. The national coffee association, Anacafe, had no immediate reports of serious damage to crops.
Coffee workers said on Friday rain from the storm was helping to clean ash off trees and were optimistic crop damage would be minimal.
ReutersLast Mod: 30 Mayıs 2010, 14:41