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Heavy rains kill dozens in Central America

Floods, landslides, and collapsed infrastructure killed at least 66 as of Sunday, with heavy rain to continue through Wednesday. Blogger Tim Muth looks at how El Salvador, one of the worst hit Central American countries, prepared for the rain and the impact it could have on harvests.

By Tim MuthGuest blogger / October 17, 2011

A view Sunday of a house flooded by the overflow of a river in La Libertad, El Salvador, about 25 miles west of San Salvador. Torrential rain in Central America forced thousands to abandon their homes and trapped many In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes declared a state of emergency.

Luis Galdamez/Reuters

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El Salvador is under a state of emergency. In a press conference Saturday night, President Mauricio Funes called for all elements of Salvadoran society to pull together. Some 13 thousand Salvadorans have been forced to flee their homes, and the death toll has risen.

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Emergency efforts to distribute food are underway for families forced from their homes. Donations are being received from many sources, and the Salvadoran armed forces are participating in distribution of emergency aid.

A tweet from LaPrensa reported that some 4000 pupusas are being made and donated by an association of pupuserias in Olocuilta to distribute to affected families. The San Miguelito market in San Salvador sent hot meals to evacuated communities in the Lower Lempa.

As noted in Friday's post, at that time experts were forecasting losses of as much as 40 percent of the country's harvest of the staple foods corn, rice, and beans. Other reports suggest that as much as 60 percent of the bean crop could be lost, and coffee production could also be impacted. This destroys the hopes I wrote about six weeks ago, that a record bean harvest might help bring down the cost of food in the country.

This chart compares this weather emergency to other recent rain and flooding events, comparing the amount of rain in millimeters during the entire event and during the first 24 hours. The rains from this tropical depression are already the 6th worst in the past 42 years, and the rains are forecast for more days.

The needs in the country are basic – shelter from the rain and floodwaters, clothing for what has been lost, food for the hungry, and long term works for mitigation of risk in many areas. Also needed, as my friend Beth points out, is psycho-social care for the victims.

Several organizations are making calls for donations. Consider these organizations if you want to help:

--- Tim Muth covers the news and politics of El Salvador at his blog, Tim's El Salvador Blog.

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