<9,000 people woke up in shelters in Veracruz, Mexico>

Thursday, October 6, 2005 Posted: 0152 GMT (0952 HKT)

**SAN SALVADOR (AP) -- Heavy rains Wednesday pounded Central America for

a fourth day, pushing rivers over their banks and unleashing a string of

deadly mudslides as the region's death toll increased to more than 135

people.**



Hurricane Stan weakened to a depression and dissipated after making landfall

along Mexico's Gulf Coast early Tuesday, but it helped spawn rain storms that

unleashed punishing downpours further south.

In Guatemala, a mudslide near the internationally popular tourist destination

of Lake Atitlan, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the capital, Guatemala

City, buried several houses. At least a dozen people were confirmed dead there,

said Mario Cruz, a spokesman for volunteer firefighters.


The additional victims brought the death toll in that country alone to at least

50, and the total number of confirmed victims to about 125 throughout the region.

"We have 50 dead, most of them buried by mudslides and landslides, but I think

there are going to be a lot more," said Benedicto Giron, spokesman for Guatemala's

National Disaster Prevention Commission.


Flooding in more than 88 Guatemalan communities forced the evacuation of more than

6,000 residents. Nearly all of the country's rivers overflowed their banks, while

landslides and fallen trees blocked at least 30 roadways. Most of the victims were

killed in landslides, national disaster agency officials said.



Guatemalan President Oscar Berger called on Congress to declare a national state

of emergency, allowing the government to force evacuations of dangerous areas,

set prices on emergency supplies and provide federal coordination of relief efforts.



"But we're only going to do all of this if it is absolutely necessary," Berger said.



~~Volcano is a concern~~

In El Salvador, President Tony Saca said late Wednesday night that 62 people had

been killed, mostly by landslides following days of nonstop rain throughout the

country. Nearly 40,650 others fled their homes for 361 shelters set up nationwide.

Among those evacuated were residents of Santa Tecla, outside the capital, San Salvador,

where a strong earthquake caused a massive landslide in January 2001.



Officials have worried the mountain running alongside the neighborhood might collapse

again with heavy rains or another quake.

The recently reactivated Ilamatepec Volcano posed an additional threat to battered

Salvadorans, with civil defense authorities on Wednesday widening the safety perimeter

around the volcano from four kilometers to five kilometers (about three miles) amid

indications of an imminent eruption.


Nine people died in storm-related storms in Nicaragua, including six migrants believed

to be Ecuadoreans killed in a boat wreck. Four deaths were reported in Honduras and

one in Costa Rica.

In the Chiapas city of Tapachula, near Mexico's border with Guatemala, three people

were killed when they were dragged away by the raging current of a river that

overflowed its banks and roared through the city, also carrying homes of wood

and metal with it, civil protection officials said Wednesday. Three other Chiapas

residents were confirmed dead, as flooding forced hundreds of evacuations.



President Vicente Fox paid a visit to the area, where heavy rains continued to fall.

Later, he said from Mexico City, "we ask families there in Chiapas to first dedicate

all of their attention to protecting their lives, their health and their family members."

Tapachula was largely cut off from surrounding areas as major highways, roads and

bridges were left under water. Authorities said supplies would have to be delivered

by air and boat to communities cut off from roads by flooding, landslides and

fallen trees.


Other Mexican victims included a married couple who were killed Wednesday in a

landslide in the southern state of Oaxaca, civil protection officials said.

Emergency authorities in the state of Veracruz, which took a direct hit from

Hurricane Stan, said two men drowned in floodwaters while trying to cross

streams, and another died in the port city of Veracruz, apparently while

trying to help others. Also, seven people were injured in the state.

At least 9,000 people woke up in shelters in Veracruz on Wednesday morning

and about 38,000 people had been evacuated from their homes throughout

the state, officials said.


Most Mexican Gulf Coast ports affected by the hurricane reopened to cargo

ships on Wednesday, although restrictions remained on large-draft boats

at Tabasco, in the north of Veracruz, and Frontera, in the southern

state of Tabasco.


The nationally owned oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said

that the hurricane disrupted an unspecified amount of oil production

Tuesday as it swept through the Gulf of Mexico, but that it hopes to

have those operations running again Wednesday.


The company's three Gulf coast crude-oil loading ports -- Coatzacoalcos,

Dos Bocas and Cayo Arcas -- reopened Wednesday after being shutdown for

one day. Pemex is the world's third-largest oil producer, and most of its

exports are sent to the United States.



(Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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