Emergency declared in El Salvador after torrential rains

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The president of El Salvador declared a national emergency in his country today, after torrential rains, flooding, and landslides inundated the area.

File photo of El Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes

Mauricio Funes said that the situation was "a tragedy", and that the amount of damage suffered by the country was "incalculable". "Today is a very sad day for the country and its government, in fact it is one of the most tragic days in memory," he said in a televised speech on Sunday.

Rescue teams, residents, and the armed forces are digging through mud and rubble around the country to try and find survivors and bodies. Recovery efforts were made difficult due to clogged roads and destroyed bridges.

According to the El Salvadorian Interior Minister, Humbero Centeno, at least 130 people had died from mudslides and flooding across the country, and a further 13,680 had lost their homes. The BBC reports that the torrential rains were likely caused by a low pressure weather system in the Pacific, possibly related to Hurricane Ida, which passed near the area earlier.

The Interior Minister noted that the death toll will probably rise in the near future, as rescue efforts continue and many people are still missing. "There are 60 people missing in just the province of San Vicente [...] we have been through disaster zones, including a fly-over of Verapaz [in San Vicente], it is a real tragedy there," he said.

Rains started falling in El Salvador on Saturday, as the storm passed over the country, causing rivers to flood their banks and initiating mudslides. Ida, now downgraded to a tropical storm, is expected to head to the Gulf Coast and southern areas of the United States next.