Guatemala: Volcano Ash Complicates ‘Agatha’ Storm Damage

Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season, Agatha, pounded Central America this weekend, triggering deadly floods and landslides that buried homes, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops.

In Guatemala, the storm dumped more than three feet of rain in the mountainous west of the country, taking the lives of 123 people and forcing about 30,000 others to take refuge in emergency shelters.

CRS staff in Guatemala say the flooding from Agatha could be worsened by ash from the Pacaya volcano, an active volcano about 20 miles southwest of the capital, Guatemala City,

Last Thursday’s eruption spewed ash that covered the city, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced the closure of the capital’s international airport.

“People were busy this weekend just trying to push out the water from their homes. The volcanic soot all over the ground has complicated things as well because it can block pipes making it difficult for water to drain. It’s amazing how much of the black soot has been cleaned up though. Every citizen seems to be doing his or her part, it’s nice to see all the solidarity,” said CRS Country Representative for Guatemala, Anne Bousquet.

In Honduras, major rivers overflowed also causing flash floods and mud slides that killed 14 people. More than 4,300 acres of farmland have been lost. While the death toll in El Salvador was significantly lower than in Guatemala, the rains were as heavy in some parts as they were during Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

CRS is working with partners in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to identify the critical needs and coordinating the delivery of life-saving supplies.

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