Officials try to get food, water to remote villages

first_imgSANTIAGO ATITLAN, Guatemala – With food and water running out, governments in Central America and Mexico scrambled Friday to reach isolated areas devastated by a week of intense rain, with residents saying panic was starting to grow among survivors. Mudslides and flooding exacerbated by Hurricane Stan killed 277 people across the region, with Guatemala bearing the brunt of the damage and deaths. Officials pulled 67 bodies from a mountain of mud that buried several towns near Lake Atitlan, an area popular with tourists 100 miles west of the capital, Guatemala City, and expected to find many more despite search efforts marred by continued rains. Increasing fears Friday was a strong earthquake that shuddered through Guatemala and El Salvador. The quake caused a rain-damaged highway bridge to collapse in Guatemala and sent thousands of frightened Salvadoran residents into the streets. In Pathulul, 30 miles away from Santiago Atitlan, creeks that normally stream down from the highlands had turned into raging rivers, cluttered with rocks, branches and chunks of debris. Guatemalan officials organized an air-rescue squad of their own helicopters as well as those lent by the United States and neighboring Mexico, but poor weather prevented them from taking off until Friday. Residents and tourists in Panajachel, on the banks of Lake Atitlan, said they needed aid. “Water is running out, food is running out and looters are coming now,” said Stephanie Jolluck, a 32-year-old businesswoman from Atlanta who was reached by telephone. Jolluck, who has traveled to Guatemala for work since 1999, described watching rivers grow from their usual width of 6 feet to more than 50 feet. In the western province of San Marcos, on the border with Mexico, residents cut off by floods have been pleading for help in telephone calls to radio stations. Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said government workers with heavy machinery cleared fallen trees and dirt from a portion of the InterAmerican Highway, allowing rescuers to reach isolated communities. The country’s important Pacific Coast highway remained impassable, however, after three bridges were washed out. More than 270 communities have been affected by the floods and landslides, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people, according to the country’s disaster management agency. In El Salvador, the death toll rose Friday to 67 after two people were buried in separate mudslides, said Cesar Marroquin of the National Emergency Committee. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! There were no immediate reports of injuries from the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8. Telephone service was cut off briefly in some areas of El Salvador, and Interior Minister Rene Figueroa urged residents to obey evacuation orders for high-risk areas. The quake also forced officials to suspend their search for two coffee workers missing since Saturday when the Ilamatepec volcano erupted about 40 miles west of the capital, San Salvador. The earthquake struck before residents had even begun to recover from five days of heavy rains, which included Hurricane Stan’s landfall on Tuesday in Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz before it weakened into a tropical depression. “We need food, clothing, medicine and help,” said Lucas Ajpus, a former firefighter coordinating rescue efforts in Santiago Atitlan, the Guatemalan city near landslides that hit four villages. A total of 177 people have been confirmed killed in Guatemala, but Benedicto Giron, a spokesman for the National Agency for Disaster Reduction, said villagers reported “200 or 300 people buried.” last_img

first_imgSANTIAGO ATITLAN, Guatemala – With food and water running out, governments in Central America and Mexico scrambled Friday to reach isolated areas devastated by a week of intense rain, with residents saying panic was starting to grow among survivors. Mudslides and flooding exacerbated by Hurricane Stan killed 277 people across the region, with Guatemala bearing the brunt of the damage and deaths. Officials pulled 67 bodies from a mountain of mud that buried several towns near Lake Atitlan, an area popular with tourists 100 miles west of the capital, Guatemala City, and expected to find many more despite search efforts marred by continued rains. Increasing fears Friday was a strong earthquake that shuddered through Guatemala and El Salvador. The quake caused a rain-damaged highway bridge to collapse in Guatemala and sent thousands of frightened Salvadoran residents into the streets. In Pathulul, 30 miles away from Santiago Atitlan, creeks that normally stream down from the highlands had turned into raging rivers, cluttered with rocks, branches and chunks of debris. Guatemalan officials organized an air-rescue squad of their own helicopters as well as those lent by the United States and neighboring Mexico, but poor weather prevented them from taking off until Friday. Residents and tourists in Panajachel, on the banks of Lake Atitlan, said they needed aid. “Water is running out, food is running out and looters are coming now,” said Stephanie Jolluck, a 32-year-old businesswoman from Atlanta who was reached by telephone. Jolluck, who has traveled to Guatemala for work since 1999, described watching rivers grow from their usual width of 6 feet to more than 50 feet. In the western province of San Marcos, on the border with Mexico, residents cut off by floods have been pleading for help in telephone calls to radio stations. Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said government workers with heavy machinery cleared fallen trees and dirt from a portion of the InterAmerican Highway, allowing rescuers to reach isolated communities. The country’s important Pacific Coast highway remained impassable, however, after three bridges were washed out. More than 270 communities have been affected by the floods and landslides, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people, according to the country’s disaster management agency. In El Salvador, the death toll rose Friday to 67 after two people were buried in separate mudslides, said Cesar Marroquin of the National Emergency Committee. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! There were no immediate reports of injuries from the quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8. Telephone service was cut off briefly in some areas of El Salvador, and Interior Minister Rene Figueroa urged residents to obey evacuation orders for high-risk areas. The quake also forced officials to suspend their search for two coffee workers missing since Saturday when the Ilamatepec volcano erupted about 40 miles west of the capital, San Salvador. The earthquake struck before residents had even begun to recover from five days of heavy rains, which included Hurricane Stan’s landfall on Tuesday in Mexico’s Gulf Coast state of Veracruz before it weakened into a tropical depression. “We need food, clothing, medicine and help,” said Lucas Ajpus, a former firefighter coordinating rescue efforts in Santiago Atitlan, the Guatemalan city near landslides that hit four villages. A total of 177 people have been confirmed killed in Guatemala, but Benedicto Giron, a spokesman for the National Agency for Disaster Reduction, said villagers reported “200 or 300 people buried.” last_img

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