Panama City, Oct 11 (EFE).- The official death toll in Central America from the passage of Hurricane Julia was hiked to at least 28 on Tuesday, with Guatemala and El Salvador being the hardest-hit countries, authorities said.
Civil protection officials in Guatemala reported that 13 people had died from storm-related causes, four are missing and 11 were injured in recent days, with Julia dissipating on Monday near the country’s border with Mexico.
The storm dumped most of its rain in northern Guatemala.
One of the fatalities was a soldier who, while engaged in rescue efforts, drowned when he was crossing an improvised bridge, fell into a river and his security lanyard snapped.
At least 4,846 people were evacuated and 386 homes were severely damaged in Guatemala by Julia, which made landfall in Nicaragua on Sunday morning as a Category 1 hurricane.
In El Salvador, 10 people died – five soldiers and five civilians – and more than 2,000 were evacuated. According to official figures, the “more than 24 hours” of rain that fell in the country severely damaged 66 homes, caused 26 rivers to overflow, resulted in 86 landslides and knocked down 184 trees.
“Despite the fact that Julia has already dissipated on the border between Mexico and Guatemala, it will continue to rain all week,” said the Salvadoran Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, with the country’s coffee, corn and rice crops reportedly suffering significant damage.
In Honduras, four people were confirmed dead, while more than 103,000 were affected by flooding and mudslides caused when rain-saturated hillsides collapsed.
The Honduran National Risk Management agency on Tuesday extended the prevailing emergency alert in eight of the country’s 18 provinces due to the saturation of the ground, flooding and high water levels in rivers due to rain brought by the storm.
After Julia hit the Nicaraguan coast it weakened to a tropical storm, but it still caused extensive – and as yet unquantified – damage to homes and infrastructure.
The government has not yet issued a report on casualties from the storm, but Internet users and some local media outlets that transmit only on the social networks reported that at least three people died when they were swept away by floodwaters in Nicaragua.
In Panama, a women died on Friday night when her house was crushed by a landslide in the Caribbean coastal province of Colon caused by Julia’s rains, the National Civil Protection System (Sinaproc) told EFE.
The agency has lifted the nationwide storm alert that had been declared.
Central America is one of the world’s zones that is most vulnerable to climate change. Each year, heavy rains brought by hurricanes and storms or associated with those ever more frequent and violent phenomena kill hundreds of people and result in millions of dollars in agricultural and infrastructure losses across the region, which is marked by significant poverty.