Tropical storm Agatha kills 40 in Guatemala

Guatemala City, May 31 (IANS/EFE) At least 40 people were killed and 30 missing as tropical storm Agatha battered the Pacific coast of Guatemala, officials said Sunday.

More than 74,000 people have been evacuated from the affected areas. Properties were also damaged.

Agatha made landfall Saturday at Tecun Uman city, near the border with Mexico, affecting the provinces of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Solola, Chimaltenango, Quiche and Totonicapan. The Guatemalan capital is also affected.

Mayor of San Aldres Palopo town Andres Cumes said 13 people have died in western Solola province.

The Conred emergency management office said 27 bodies were recovered from other areas. It said the toll could increase as many people are missing. First, officials put the toll at 12.

The storm weakened into a depression Sunday, but continues to bring heavy rains along the Pacific coast. The stormy weather is expected to continue for the next five days.

The weather service said downgrading of Agatha to a tropical depression ‘means the winds are gradually lessening in velocity’, but noted, ‘heavy to moderate rains will continue’.

The rains have prevented the authorities from cleaning the runway at Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport, which was covered with tonnes of sand after the eruption of Pacaya volcano Thursday. It will remain closed for at least two more days.

Meanwhile, flights to Guatemala have been diverted to the Comalapa airport in El Salvador, from where the passengers will be transported by road to the Guatemalan capital.

President Alvaro Colom has appealed for help from the international community.