Rains from Hurricane Stan lead to dozens of deaths

Hurricane Stan came ashore in Veracruz, Mexico, but some of its worst impact is currently being felt in El Salvador. Torrential rains have fallen on the country since Sunday, causing mudslides, cave-ins, and flooding. As of the time of the time of this post, Salvadoran papers are reporting 49 deaths from the rains. More than 16,000 people have had to flee their homes at risk from flooding or mudslides. Countless homes have been destroyed in flooding or as hillsides, soaked from days of rain, give way and slide to the bottom.

A national red alert continues in effect. Schools remain closed, and the population is being advised to stay in places of safety. Many roads are impassable because of sinkholes, mudslides or flooding. The emergency is greatly taxing the resources of the government and charitable organizations.

Coverage of "Las Lluvias" (the Rains)

The most detailed coverage on the web (in Spanish) comes from the web sites of the major Salvadoran papers La Prensa Grafica and El Diario de Hoy. Both have round-the-clock, regularly updated stories. The newsweekly El Faro has a special internet edition on the disasters. Diario CoLatino has several stories in its regular coverage. Also take a look at this graphical map printed in La Prensa showing the impacted areas across the country.

English language coverage

From the AP:

Forecasters said wind and rain from [Hurricane Stan] a Category 1 hurricane were also reaching Central America, causing floods and landslides and leaving at least 38 people dead in El Salvador. Rain was still falling Tuesday in much of Central America, driving thousands from their homes in El Salvador and Guatemala.

This can be seen in this satellite image which shows the reach of the rains from Stan over El Salvador. For a regularly updated satellite image showing the storms, follow this link. You can also read a CNN report on Hurricane Stan's impact.

The Independent has some of the best English-language coverage, and ties the occurrence of mudslides to deforestation in El Salvador:

In the small town of Colon, El Salvador, soldiers, rescue workers and volunteers pulled bodies from the wreckage of homes yesterday, after flooding and a mudslide killed dozens of people in Central America.

The immediate cause of the flooding was the torrential rainfall that has lashed the region for the past few days. But the disaster that has killed at least 39 was, to all intents and purposes, man-made.

Much of El Salvador's tree cover has been removed, leaving the country vulnerable to flash flooding. Only an estimated 2 per cent of the tree cover that existed before the 10-year civil war remains.

Reuters AlertNet reports:
The government declared a national emergency and, warning of further rains, rushed to evacuate thousands of families.

"Sixty-five percent of the country is in danger of landslides," President Tony Saca said. "The risk caused by this accumulation of water is worrying."

The deaths were blamed on Tropical Storm Stan, which swept across Mexico's Yucatan peninsula over the weekend.

Three days of rains pounded Central America, sending rivers spilling over their banks, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and finally triggering the worst mudslides.

"They are trapped in the mud that drowned them," sobbed Ana Ramos, whose niece Carmen Elena Ramos died with her husband and three children in San Marcos, just south of San Salvador.

El Salvador's biggest river, the normally calm Lempa, overflowed and rescue teams raced to evacuate families further down river. "We are going to the lower Lempa to evacuate about 3,000 families," said Eduardo Rivera, the spokesman for one of El Salvador's leading emergency rescue units.

Reports from Non-Governmental Organizations:

  • ReliefWeb provides reports and information on relief efforts in El Salvador for humanitarian relief agencies.
  • Crispaz has a page dedicated to the Ilamatepec volcano and flooding emergencies, including information on making donations to relief efforts.
  • Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America has a page on the Hurricane and the efforts of that organization to work with evacuees.
  • Share Foundation issued a letter with reports from many communities in the country.
  • Salvadoran Lutheran Synod issued a letter describing its relief efforts and the shelters it has opened and seeking donations.

From Bloggers:

From San Salvador, Marie writes in her Hameno blog about learning a new vocabulary to go with the torrential rains.

Also from San Salvador, Susan Dunlap writes about learning to drive in the rains.

The Hunnapuh blog writes about both the rains and the volcano.