Landslides kill at least 2 in Panama after heavy rains

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Heavy rains in Panama flooded villages and caused landslides that killed at least two people and destroyed hundreds of homes, the government said yesterday.

President Ricardo Martinelli yesterday declared a state of emergency in the province of Colon, on the Caribbean coast, and Capira and Chorrera, just outside of Panama City. He called for an emergency legislative session to approve aid to the areas.

“This is more serious than people thought,“ Martinelli said on his Twitter account.

Heavy rains since Friday inundated parts of this small Central American country, stemming from a low pressure system extending from Colombia to Costa Rica, said Arturo Alvarado, director of the national civil protection service.

Alvarado said more than 800 homes have flooded and at least 500 residents evacuated. Landslides blocked part of a major highway connecting Panama City to Colon and killed at least two people in Capira. Two people were missing in Colon after their car slid off a cliff.

Parades celebrating Panama’s independence from Spain, scheduled for yesterday, were cancelled in several parts of the country.

Rescue workers and officials with the Red Cross were en route to affected areas to aid recovery efforts. The rain is expected to subside late yesterday, Alvarado said.

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