Central America floods and landslides 'leave 80 dead'

Scenes from El Salvador and Guatemala, where dozens have been killed

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The number of people killed by a week of torrential rains, triggering floods and landslides across Central America, has reached at least 80, officials say.

El Salvador is the worst-affected, with 32 people killed, mostly buried in their houses by mudslides.

The number of dead in Guatemala has risen to 28, while the total rose to 13 in Honduras and eight in Nicaragua.

El Salvador has seen a record 1.2m (4 ft) of rain, more than the previous record set by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Rain generated by two low pressure systems, one from the Pacific Ocean and the other from the Caribbean, is expected to continue to fall over the entire region until Wednesday.

International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops.

The United Nations has classified Central America as one of the parts of the world most affected by climate change.

The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been affected by the flooding.

Evacuations

El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes said the country was "really being put to the test".

"The situation has got even worse, it's still raining heavily in various parts of the country," Mr Funes, said in an address to the nation, late on Sunday.

He said more than 20,000 people had been evacuated and entire communities had been cut off due to impassable roads.

Central America map

The government launched an appeal for international humanitarian aid, with the rains forecast to continue through Monday.

Spain has responded by sending 20 tonnes of supplies, including tents and hygiene kits.

In Ciudad Arce, 40 km (24 miles) northwest of the capital, San Salvador, a landslide swept away five houses, killing at least nine people, officials said.

Rainfall was so strong around the municipality that rescue operations had to be suspended for a time.

Authorities were also moving people away from the area around a volcano near San Salvador, where hundreds died in landslides in 1982.

Similar action was being taken in Nicaragua, where the civil defence agency ordered the evacuation of the slopes of the Casita volcano, which experienced deadly landslides in 1998, after the passage of Hurricane Mitch.

Guatemala issued a "red alert" and President Alvaro Colom has declared a "state of calamity".

In one of the most recent incidents, a mudslide buried five members of a single family inside a house in Boca del Monte, Villa Canales, 18km (12 miles) south of Guatemala City.

In Honduras, 2,500 homes, eight bridges and 29 roads had been damaged.

President Porfirio Lobo declared a state of emergency in the southern part of the country and dispatched medical teams to the worst-affected areas.

"The worst is yet to come," said Rodolfo Funez, deputy director of the Honduran emergency commission.

The rain has also hit southeastern Mexico, where swollen rivers have affected thousands of people, notably in Tabasco state.

Last week, Hurricane Jova hit Mexico's Pacific coast, leaving at least eight dead.

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