Central America hurricane kills scores

Hurricane Stan has hit Mexico's Gulf coast, forcing evacuations and shutting down oil ports after killing at least 65 people in Central America.

    A ship sunk by the storm in Veracruz, Mexico

    It knocked down trees, ripped roofs off homes and washed out bridges in southeastern Mexico, but the storms it helped spawn were more destructive.

    The Category One hurricane came ashore 135km southeast of the Mexican city of Veracruz with winds of nearly 128kph, then weakened to a tropical storm over the state of Oaxaca. 

    Forecasters said Stan triggered separate storms farther south, unleashing heavy rains in Central America, where at least 65 people were killed in floods, mudslides and rough weather at sea.

    Rivers overflow

    Small groups of Mexican Navy sailors were among the few on Tuesday who ventured onto the darkened streets of downtown Veracruz, a colonial port city, in lashing rain and high winds that snapped branches from palm trees.

    Rains caused heavy floods
    and deadly mudslides

    Gusts blew the roofs off poor residents' flimsy shacks, injuring four people in the state of Veracruz, and hundreds were evacuated when rivers overflowed. 

    Resident Juan Alvarado, 52, feared for his wood and tin home. "I am worried the wind will take it away. My three children are there," he said. 

    Rain lashed a shantytown on the outskirts of Veracruz, where residents watched the water swell from a lagoon into neighbours' homes and debated whether to flee to shelters. 

    "If it rises any more we'll have to go," said Carolina Cagaltoto, a 25-year-old mother of two. "But I don't want to go, because [people] are stealing." 

    In the mountainous southern state of Chiapas, close to 5000 people fled to high ground as raging rivers overflowed into town streets, sweeping away buildings and cars. 

    El Salvador hardest hit

    El Salvador was hardest hit. Officials in the capital said 49 people had been killed, mostly due to two days of mudslides sparked by rains all over the country.

    Rescue workers pulled a dead 15-day-old baby from under a mudslide that crashed into a house in San Salvador, and carried it away wrapped in a Red Cross T-shirt. Six members of the same family died buried in the mud. 

    El Salvador was the worst hit, with
    49 dead, mostly from mudslides

    More than 16,700 Salvadorans had fled their homes for 167 shelters nationwide.

    "This is a national tragedy because of the rains," said Eduardo Rivera, a spokesman for a team of Salvadoran rescue officials.

    "There isn't a corner of the country where there isn't pain and destruction to be found."

    The toll in Nicaragua was six. Eight people were reported dead in Guatemala and two in Honduras. 

    Mexico closed its main oil exporting ports - Dos Bocas, Cayo Arcos and Coatzacoalcos - but it was unclear if deliveries would be affected. 

    State oil monopoly Pemex evacuated 270 workers from five oil exploration platforms in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Stan's arrival. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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