Image: overturned truck
La Prensa Grafica  /  AP
Remains of a truck lie on the side of a road in Planes de la Laguna, El Salvador, on Monday. A tropical weather front swept over Central America, unleashing downpours and causing rivers to overflow.
updated 10/3/2005 11:37:50 PM ET 2005-10-04T03:37:50

Heavy rains triggered landslides that killed at least 31 people in El Salvador on Monday, while rising rivers forced the evacuation of dozens of people there and in neighboring Guatemala.

Both countries put their Pacific coasts on alert as a tropical weather front swept over Central America, unleashing downpours and causing principal rivers to overflow.

Mauricio Ferrer, director of El Salvador’s national emergency center, said heavy morning rains triggered flooding in 300 communities, claiming 31 lives. He said officials opened 122 shelters across the country to accommodate the more than 8,500 people who fled their homes.

Salvadoran President Tony Saca declared a nationwide state of emergency.

Dozens of towns in Guatemala were cut off by floods as rescue workers tried to identify the number of people affected. No deaths were reported in Guatemala.

“We are noticing a critical situation in the south where the rivers have overflowed their banks,” said Hugo Hernandez, executive secretary of Guatemala’s National Center for Disaster Reduction.

Salvadoran Interior Minister Rene Figueroa said disaster agencies were working “on responding to the emergency.”

El Salvador’s airport was still open, but landslides cut off major roadways. Schools and universities suspended classes indefinitely.

The floods and landslides came two days after the newly active Ilamatepec volcano in El Salvador erupted, sending ashes and hot rocks down its flanks. Two coffee pickers working near the crater were killed.

The volcano’s activity slowed Monday, but authorities evacuated 7,000 nearby residents and kept people at least two miles from the crater.

The volcano, 40 miles west of San Salvador, last erupted in 1904. It became active again in June 2004.

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