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19 dead as Julia drenches Central America in rain

GUATEMALA CITY — Former Hurricane Julia has dissipated but is still inundating Guatemala and El Salvador with torrential rain Monday after it resurfaced in the Pacific Ocean following a pounding Nicaragua.

At least 19 people were reported dead as a direct or indirect result of the storm.

Guatemala’s disaster prevention agency said five people were killed after a mound collapsed on their home in Alta Verapaz province, burying them.

Authorities in El Salvador said five Salvadoran army soldiers died after a wall collapsed at a house they sought refuge in the city of Comasagua, where hundreds of police and soldiers have conducted anti-gang raids. Another soldier was wounded.

Two other people died in the city of Guatajiagua in eastern El Salvador after torrential rains collapsed a wall of their home. Another man in El Salvador died when he was swept by a current, and another died when a tree fell on him.

Rivers overflowed and El Salvador declared a state of emergency and opened 80 storm shelters.

In neighboring Honduras, a 22-year-old woman died when she was swept by the current, and three people died when their boat became submerged or capsized in northern Honduras. A man in Nicaragua was killed by a falling tree.

Julia hit Nicaragua’s central Caribbean coast early Sunday as a hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h and survived its passage over the country’s mountainous terrain, entering the Pacific late in the day as a tropical storm.

By Monday, Julia had moved inland over Guatemala and winds had dropped to 30 mph (45 kph).

The US National Hurricane Center said Julia was about 125 kilometers northwest of Guatemala City and was moving west-northwest at a speed of 15 miles per hour.

The center said flooding and mudslides were possible in Central America and southern Mexico through Tuesday, with the storm expected to bring as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain to isolated areas.

In Guatemala, two people were reported missing and two were hospitalized, and about 1,300 people had to leave their homes due to flooding and rising flows.

Julia was expected to disappear later Monday as it passes along the Guatemalan coast.

Colombia’s national disaster agency reported on Sunday that Julia blew the roofs of several homes and knocked down trees as it hurtled past San Andres Island east of Nicaragua. There were no immediate reports of fatalities

In Nicaragua, Vice President Rosario Murillo told television channel TN8 that 9,500 people had been evacuated to shelters.

Heavy rains and evacuations were also reported in Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica, where some highways were closed due to the downpours.

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