Hurricane Cesar Kills 28 in Central America

Originally published
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuter) - Central America on Monday sifted through the aftermath of Hurricane Cesar, whose fierce rains and mudslides killed at least 28 people and forced thousands from their homes, officials said.

Dozens of people were still missing in the region.

The worst-hit country appeared to be Costa Rica, where at least 11 people were dead and 39 missing.

In El Salvador, nine people were killed early Monday when they were buried by mudslides in the community of Jose Cecilio del Valle in western San Salvador, firefighters said. Four more were drowned in other parts of the country.

Four people were killed in Nicaragua and 10,000 evacuated to camps, officials said. Guatemala and Honduras appeared to have had no casualties, but were hit by floods and mudslides.

The storm hurt coffee crops, the region's main export, but official damage estimates were not immediately available.

Cesar struck Central America's Caribbean coast with 88 mph winds and heavy rain early Sunday, but lost steam as it crossed the isthmus and was downgraded to a tropical depression named Douglas when it reached the Pacific.

Douglas was heading toward Mexico at about 20 mph, with winds of up to 62 mph, said Eddy Sanchez, director of the Guatemalan National Weather Institute.

Costa Rican officials said their country's death toll could double if, as feared, 11 more people had been killed in a mudslide in the area of Los Santos, about 40 miles south of the capital San Jose.

''In any case, 11 dead and 39 disappeared is a national tragedy,'' said Jorge Castro, head of Costa Rica's National Emergency Commission.

The Costa Rican goverment declared a state of national emergency and was seeking international help to deal with the effects of the hurricane. Damage was estimated at $10 million.

''We are lucky. The loss of life could have been much greater,'' said Nicaragua's chief cabinet minister, Julio Cardenas.

Nicaragua remained in a state of alert as flooding continued along its Pacific coast and thousands of refugees remained stranded in camps without food, medicine or water, the army said.

Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro called on the international community to help the cash-strapped civil defense efforts. Many relief camps complained they had not received aid.

Copyright =A9 1996 Reuters Limited.

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