Ida kills 124 in El Salvador, storm could reach US Tuesday

Ida left scores dead in El Salvador and shut down oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane has been downgraded to a tropical storm and is expected to make landfall in the US Tuesday.

Henry Romero/REUTERS
A rescue worker looks into a damaged house Monday in the village of Verapaz, near San Salvador. Hurricane Ida roared through the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday triggering floods and mudslides that killed 124 people in El Salvador.

MORELIA, MEXICO – The first hurricane to pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico's oil and natural gas production this season has weakened to a tropical storm after triggering floods and mudslides that killed at least 124 people in El Salvador Sunday.

El Salvador President Mauricio Funes called hurricane Ida a “disaster” with “incalculable” damage. Dozens are still missing.

In preparation for the storm, US oil companies began shutting down their production Saturday, evacuating workers.

“We've had a very busy day," Jim Shugart, executive vice president of marketing for ERA Helicopters of Lake Charles, Louisiana, told Reuters Sunday. "We started Saturday. They've been flying all day."

The Gulf accounts for 25 percent of domestically produced oil in the US and 14 percent of natural gas.

The storm is forecast to make landfall by Tuesday. A watch extended over 200 miles of coastline between Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. The governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency.

'Thank God, we're alive'
As the US braces for the storm, El Salvador now faces the aftermath. National Public Radio has an account from Verapaz, El Salvador, where boulders crashed down the side of a volcano, partially burying the entire town.

Most were asleep when the tragedy struck before dawn. Resident Matias Mendoza described the scene to the radio station: "It was about two in the morning when the rain started coming down harder, and the earth started shaking," Mendoza said. "I warned my wife and grabbed my son, and all of a sudden we heard a sound. The next thing I knew I was lying among parts of the walls of my house."

"A few minutes later, I found my wife and my son in the middle of the rubble, and, thank God, we're alive."

Humberto Centeno, the interior minister of El Salvador, told Al Jazeera that 60 were still missing and about 7,000 sought refuge in temporary shelters.

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