Tropical Storm Leaves Central America Underwater

Tropical Storm Agatha has become one of the top ten deadliest tropical storm systems on record, behind 6 full-force hurricanes, dropping nearly two feet of rain on central America in two days, flooding multiple nations’ low-lying areas and creating havoc across the region. At least 142 people have been killed, mostly in flooding and landslides, and coffee growers and farmers are preparing for potential long-term impact on agriculture across the region.

In El Salvador, the extreme weather has left at least 6 people dead, with flooding spreading across farm land and low-lying areas. El Salvador’s Pres. Mauricio Funes has declared a state of emergency, amid worries the heavy rains and flooding will lead to landslides, mass evacuations, displacements, death and disease. Funes warned that “We have finally decided to declare a red alert across the entire country”, but was careful to note that “we have not declared this alert because of a high number of deaths.”

Honduras has also declared a state of emergency, after 14 were killed. In Guatemala, intense rains and winds coincided with lava flow and hot ash from the Pacaya Volcano, causing evacuations made more complex by the dangers posed by lava and ash. The volcano’s surge in activity had closed the Pacaya airport, and with rains complicating the ash-removal effort, the flow of people and supplies into or out of the city will be impeded.

As of yesterday, there were over 17,000 people displaced and living in temporary housing in Guatemala, and authorities seek to coordinate the response, to ensure flooding does not lead to transport-related fatalities or the spread of disease. According to a Global Voices report, quoting Geraldine Mac:

A state of emergency has been declared in Guatemala as the storms heavy rain thrashes through Central America. ‘Agatha’s’ heavy rain has caused mud-slides which are destroying houses and businesses alike, cutting off roads and causing fear and panic throughout the region and there is a risk of a volcanic eruption. Just over 120 miles from Guatemala City in the town of Alomolonga, a mudslide buried a house with a family of 2 adults and 2 children there was no survivors. Four other adults and children have also been killed in separate incidents due to the amount of heavy rain causing more than just a few mud-slides and 11 people are missing. These mudslides have been causing traffic problems and power has been cut off from those places affected.

La Tribuna, of Honduras, reports that at least 142 people are confirmed dead in connection with Tropical Storm Agatha. Initial reports suggest Guatemala is the worst affected nation, with 118 confirmed deaths and reports of possibly many more missing or killed. According to La Tribuna:

La Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres de Guatemala dijo que su registro contabilizó 118 muertos y 53 desaparecidos.

El alcalde de San Antonio Palopó, Andrés Cúmez, reportó 15 fallecidos en su comunidad que no están incluidos en el conteo oficial, y el gobernador de Chimaltenango, Erick de León, indicó que en su jurisdicción hay 11 muertos más de lo que reportan las cifras de la Coordinadora.

Guatemala’s National Disaster-Reduction Coordinator reports 118 dead, but local officials have reported many more disappeared and at least 15 additional people killed in San Antonio Palopó and 11 additional people killed in Chimaltenango, not included in the official tallies. Part of the emergency response will be a more thorough accounting of who has been affected, injured, disappeared or killed by the storm.

According to El Comercio, Perú, the rains have left at least 111,000 people displaced, and more to be evacuated, in Guatemala, with thousands of homes destroyed or damaged and fears of more to come as flooding continues. The Mexican government has expressed solidarity and sympathy for the affected nations, including those communities most impacted in Honduras, namely Tegucigalpa, Choluteca and Comayagua.