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Downgraded to a Tropical Storm, Julia leaves 4 dead and heads to the Pacific

Tropical Storm Julia was weakening on Monday as it advanced across the Pacific towards Guatemala, after leaving four dead in El Salvador and Honduras and flooding and material damage in both countries and Nicaragua.

El Salvador’s police reported on Twitter that “at least two people died underground” after a wall collapsed and destroyed a home in the town of Guatajiagua, about 150 km east of San Salvador.

“We are removing debris to recover the bodies,” the police said on Twitter.

Wilmer Wood, mayor of the town of Brus Laguna, in the department of Gracias a Dios (east), in Honduras, reported that two people died after a boat was wrecked by Julia.

One more person is missing, Wood added. 

The center of Julia was moving in the early hours of Monday in the Pacific Ocean about 65 km west of San Salvador, and according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (CNH) remains “the risk” of flooding and landslides that “threaten life” in Central America and southern Mexico.

“Weakening is forecast and Julia is expected to become a tropical depression later today and dissipate this evening,” the CNH said.

The cyclone made landfall on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast early Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane, but degraded to a tropical storm lashing with heavy rains and winds before exiting into the Pacific Ocean Sunday night.

In El Salvador, where authorities remain on red alert, Julia has unloaded persistent rains with intense wind gusts that downed trees, flooded roads and forced authorities to carry out preventive evacuations.

“The eastern zone (of El Salvador) is the one that is registering the highest accumulated rainfall” with up to 177 millimeters in the city of La Union (east), the Minister of Environment, Fernando Lopez, said on Twitter.

“It has been a deluge with strong winds that kept us sleepless and left us without electricity,” Marina Pacheco told AFP in the southeastern department of Usulután. 

The government has set up some 70 shelters throughout the territory, with capacity for a little more than 3,000 people.

  • Affectations appear –

The Nicaraguan government declared a red alert after the devastation left by Julia as it passed through the territory, including overflowing rivers, damage to homes, roads, schools and communications, according to a statement issued by the Presidency.

Vice President Rosario Murillo detailed that Julia left 7,500 people affected, 3,000 homes flooded, another 2,000 with roofs damaged by winds, 78 rivers overflowed and walls collapsed. 

Julia, which is moving at 24 km/h, had maximum winds of 65 km in its advance to the coast of Guatemala, detailed the National Hurricane Center.

According to the vice-president, no deaths have been reported so far in Nicaragua, where classes in schools and universities have been suspended.

In Guatemala, which is on red alert, President Alejandro Giammattei announced that classes have been suspended due to the cyclone and said that 1,855 shelters are available to shelter victims.

According to Civil Protection, 66,350 people in Guatemala have been affected in their circulation due to damages in roads or bridges.

In Honduras, where authorities remain on alert, the Honduran Company of Infrastructure and Airport Services (EHISA) announced that the Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport in San Pedro Sula suspended operations “temporarily” until Monday.

In Costa Rica, authorities announced the suspension of classes.

And in Panama, in view of the arrival of Julia, authorities carried out evacuations in the province of Chiriqui, bordering Costa Rica, on the Pacific, after landslides and the collapse of some infrastructures.

Julia is the second hurricane of the 2022 season to affect Central America after Bonnie entered the Caribbean in July along the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Climate change produces an increase in temperature in the surface layers of the oceans, which generates more powerful storms and hurricanes with more water, according to experts.

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