Caracas (AFP) Sept 24, 2010
Seven people have died in a Caracas slum due to heavy rains from Tropical Storm Matthew, which brought fresh misery to a region were hundreds have been killed in flooding and landslides this year.
An unrelated freak storm in Haiti killed at least five survivors from its devastating January quake and wounded dozens as it blasted through the capital Port-au-Prince, tearing down shabby tent homes, trees and power lines.
Citing local fire department officials, Venezuela's VNA state news agency said Tropical Storm Matthew killed its seven victims Friday in the Santa Ana de Antimano neighborhood after their home was flooded.
Caracas fire chief William Martinez said authorities also conducted preventive evictions in other high-risk areas.
Thousands of people had been evacuated elsewhere in Central America ahead of Matthew, which made landfall in a lightly populated area of northeastern Nicaragua, then headed west, dumping rain across much of northern Honduras.
The storm struck further south than expected, Rosalba Silva of Nicaragua's Meteorology Institute told AFP.
At 0300 GMT Saturday, Matthew's center was located inland about 130 kilometers (80 miles) east-southeast of the coastal city of La Ceiba, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). It packed top winds of 85 kilometers (50 miles) per hour.
The storm was moving west-northwest at 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour.
There have been no reports of victims or serious damage in Honduras, though the Honduran government expanded a red alert nationwide because Matthew threatened all 18 departments.
"This is a new threat. Tropical Storm Matthew has entered the territory and we predict heavy rains throughout the country," President Porfirio Lobo told reporters.
Randolfo Funez of the national emergency commission pointed to high water levels in rivers, noting that the soil was highly saturated after frequent rains since May.
Some 10,000 Miskito Indians living on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast were evacuated ahead of the storm, said Civil Defense chief Mario Perezcassar.
"Torrential rains will be the biggest threat for the next few days," the NHC said.
The eye of the storm is forecast to move across Honduras Friday and Saturday, reaching Belize and Guatemala late Saturday and Sunday.
Matthew is a large storm, with tropical force storm winds extending outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) to the north of the center, the NHC said.
It was expected to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 25 centimeters (six to 10 inches) over portions of Honduras, Nicaragua, southern Belize and Guatemala, with up to 38 centimeters (15 inches) in isolated areas.
"These rains could produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides," the NHC warned. The storm was expected to weaken and lose its tropical storm status by Sunday.
Central America is in the midst of one of the most intense rainy seasons in the past 60 years, with flooding and landslides that have killed more than 300 people and caused serious damage in recent months.
But Lisandro Rosales, the head of the Honduras government disaster office, urged calm.
While Matthew can bring "a lot of rain, it is not a reason for panic or unnecessary alarm," he said, responding to reports of people swarming grocery stores and gas stations for last-minute buying.
The storm was expected to approach Belize's coast later Saturday and the country placed its entire coastline on a tropical storm watch.
Since the arrival of Tropical Storm Agatha in late May, heavy rain has swamped the region.
In Guatemala, President Alvaro Colom declared a "state of national emergency" due to the heavy rain and flooding, which has killed at least 36 people, left some 40 people missing, forced the evacuation of around 11,500 people and caused some 1.5 billion dollars in damage.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Julia formed out in the eastern Atlantic with maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour. It was expected to become a tropical storm on Sunday.
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Tropical storm Matthew makes landfall in Central America
San Jose (AFP) Sept 24, 2010
A fast-moving Tropical Storm Matthew made landfall in Central America Friday, threatening to bring new destruction to a region already suffering the consequences of an abnormally fierce rainy season. At 2100 GMT, Matthew's center was located inland over northeastern Nicaragua, heading west over Honduras, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported. The storm was moving at nearly 1 ... read more
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