Panama City – Eight days of constant rain have plunged impoverished Central America into new tragedy with some 80 people dead, an undetermined number of people missing and thousands losing their homes and crops.
Damage to infrastructure is estimated in the millions of dollars, with highways and bridges blocked or demolished, schools and homes damaged or flooded and crops lost, all of which means difficult days ahead for a region that is poor in the best of times.
The downpours began Oct. 10 due to a tropical depression over the Pacific Ocean, and though their intensity slackened in recent days, saturated soil has unleashed mudslides that have wiped out homes and highways and have caused most of the deaths.
Spain announced Monday that it will send El Salvador 20 tons of humanitarian aid.
A state of national emergency was declared in El Salvador last Friday by President Mauricio Funes, who also announced that he will seek $50 million from the World Bank to deal with the situation.
In Guatemala, rescue teams searched Monday for at least five people under tons of mud in a municipality in the southern part of the country, even as the downpours continued.
Authorities say there have been at least 29 deaths, almost 30,000 people forced from their homes and more than 147,000 affected by the rains in Guatemala, declared Sunday to be in a "state of disaster" by President Alvaro Colom.
Central America is one of the areas most vulnerable to natural disasters in the world, and environmental experts have said that the 11 most recent extreme events attributable to climate change have produced losses worth some $13.6 billion.