Tropical storm in Guatemala leaves trail of death

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The Independent US

Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season pounded Guatemala and southern Mexico, triggering deadly landslides and killing at least 12.

Agatha made landfall near the border of Guatemala and Mexico yesterday as a tropical storm with wind speeds of up to 45mph then weakened into a tropical depression as it pushed inland.

But authorities warned that trouble was far from over as the remnants of Agatha continued to dump rain on vulnerable hillside and riverside settlements.

"It has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but this means that the velocity of the wind has fallen, not the amount of rain," Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom said, adding that the rivers in the country's south were flooding or close to it.

Mr Colom said 4.3ins of rain had fallen in Guatemala City's valley in the past 12 hours, the most since 1949.

As of early today, 4,300 people were in shelters and authorities said the number could rise as figures came in from around the country.

Earlier, Agatha's rains caused a landslide on a hillside settlement in Guatemala City that killed four people and left 11 missing, Guatemalan disaster relief spokesman David de Leon said. Most of the city was without electricity at nightfall, complicating search efforts.