Heavy rains brought by tropical storm Agatha kill 12 in Guatemala

By Javier Mines

(Eds: Updates death toll)

GUATEMALA CITY (BNO NEWS) — Tropical Storm Agatha came ashore over the Mexico-Guatemala border on Saturday afternoon, bringing heavy rains that have killed at least 12 people in Guatemala, officials said.

According to emergency officials, four people – including two children – were killed in a landslide in the Guatemalan municipality of Almolonga. Four others were killed in a landslide in the Santa Catarina Pinula town. Another landslide killed four in the La Cruz neighborhood of Guatemala City. Officials said 11 people are missing following the La Cruz landslide.

According to surface observations and satellite images, the center of Agatha crossed the coast along the border of Mexico and Guatemala and is now localed near Tapachula, said U.S. National Hurricane Center forecasters Avila and Cangialosi.

At 5:00 p.m. PDT, the center of the storm was located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Tapachula. It is currently moving northeast at a speed of 16 km/hr (10 mph), a motion which is expected to continue through Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 65 km/hr (40 mph).

Even though surface winds are expected to weaken after landfall, a very moist southwesterly flow on the east side of Agatha will continue to spread across much of Guatemala and El Salvador, which will continue the heavy rainfall threat even after the system ceases to exist as a tropical cyclone.

“Due to the slow forward speed and interaction with high terrain, the main impact from Agatha will be extremely heavy rainfall,” Stewart added. “These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and as far inland as Honduras.”

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Pacific coasts of extreme Mexico, all of Guatemala, and all of El Salvador from Boca de Pijijiapan, Mexico southeastward to the El Salvador-Honduras border. Heavy rains and gusty winds are already affecting the warning area as the storm moves inland.

Agatha is the first tropical storm of the 2010 Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season.

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