Tropical Storm Amanda has killed at least 20 people in Central America, most of whom in El Salvador, as it swept across several countries causing floods and landslides.
In El Salvador, officials said some 7,000 people have taken refuge in 154 shelters as torrential rain and strong winds destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged roads.
“We have 15 people dead and seven missing,” El Salvador Interior Minister Mario Duran told reporters on Monday, adding that rescue efforts were under way.
Carolina Recinos, a senior aide to President Nayib Bukele, said the storm had dumped the equivalent of “almost 10 percent” of the annual rainfall on the country in a relatively short space of time.
Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of Amanda, which he estimated to have caused $200m in damage.
On Sunday, officials said the storm had destroyed at least 900 homes.
“We’ve never experienced this,” Maria Torres, whose house was damaged, told The Associated Press news agency. “The rain was so strong and suddenly, the water entered the homes, and we just saw how they fell.”
The storm came as the country of some 6.6 million people is grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. To date, El Salvador has reported 2,582 confirmed infections and 46 related deaths.
“We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one,” said San Salvador Mayor Ernesto Muyshondt.
The Legislative Assembly approved the government’s use of a $389m loan from the International Monetary Fund to deal with the pandemic and the storm’s impact.
“The storm has come to show how vulnerable this country is, as well as the lack of investment in infrastructure,” Duran said.
In neighbouring Guatemala, officials reported the deaths of two people due to the storm, including a boy of nine.
The rains also killed at least three people in Honduras, including a brother and sister swept into a river in a car, according to local authorities, which reported landslides and flooding in several parts of the country.