Volcano-hit Guatemala suffers landslide in storms

Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season pounded Central America and southern Mexico over the weekend, triggering deadly landslides. The death toll stood at 16 yesterday, but authorities said the number could rise.

Tropical Storm Agatha was dissipating over the mountains of western Guatemala a day after it made landfall near the nation's border with Mexico with winds up to 45mph. Remnants of the storm were expected to deliver 10-20in of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador, creating the possibility of "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides", the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami advised.

Alvaro Colom, the President of Guatemala, said on Saturday night that the rivers in the country's south were flooding or close to it. Colom said 4.3in of rain had fallen in Guatemala City's valley in 12 hours, the most since 1949.

As of Sunday morning, 69,000 people in Guatemala had been evacuated, many to shelters. A landslide on a hillside settlement in Guatemala City on Saturday killed four people and left 11 missing, and some residents lost their homes, said David de Leon, a disaster relief spokesman. In El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, the president, declared a "red alert", the country's highest level of emergency.

Before the rains, Guatemala was already contending with heavy eruptions from its Pacaya volcano that blanketed the capital in ash and destroyed 800 homes. The volcano, which is just south of the capital, started spewing lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon.

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