Deaths, Drownings And Destruction As Heavy Rains Move Through Central America. 3 Killed In Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Three men drowned in Guatemala when two of them tried to help another who had tried to cross an overflowing river, as heavy rains caused death and destruction across Central America, authorities said Tuesday.

The three fatalities on Monday were the latest in a series of deaths caused by heavy rains in the region in recent days. In neighboring El Salvador, 11 people have died over the past week. Both countries have canceled school, and El Salvador has opened shelters for the displaced.

Two weather systems — one along Guatemala's Pacific coast and the other in the Gulf of Mexico — have brought saturating rains to southern Mexico and Central America.

The storm forming in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to eventually become the season's first named storm, and come ashore in northeast Mexico Wednesday.

Guatemala's National Coordinator for Disaster Prevention, or CONRED, confirmed that the three men drowned in the Pulula river, in the municipality of Jalpatagua, in southern Guatemala near the border with El Salvador.

Video on Monday night showed a man trying to escape the current in the swollen river, while two men jumped in to try to save him. The father of one of the three men ran to help them, while he shouted for them to swim against the current. The force of the water was relentless and the three men drowned while onlookers screamed.

The rains have also collapsed and destroyed roads and caused flooding.

Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo supervised the repair of the country’s main highway towards the Pacific on Tuesday. Heavy rain caused the highway to collapse.

El Salvador also continues to deal with the impact of the storms. Interior Minister Juan Carlos Bidegaín said that authorities have prepared 125 shelters nationally, of which 58 were active. They were sheltering more than 1,800 people.

In five days of intense rain across the country, the director of Salvadoran Civil Protection, Luis Amaya, said that the country had registered 11 deaths, 69 homes with minor damage, and three homes with major damage. They had also registered 150 landslides, 300 fallen trees and 233 roads and highways destroyed.

A climate forecast from the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry warned that the seasonal rains would continue to impact El Salvador and Central America through the week.

“The system and conditions favor the abundant increase of humidity in the Pacific towards our territory, maintaining very heavy rains, varying between persistent and intermittent, anticipating greater accumulations of rain in the coastal region and volcanic mountain range,” the forecast said.


Marcos Alemán contributed to this report from San Salvador, El Salvador.