SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Central American authorities said on Sunday that at least 66 people had died in six days of heavy rains that caused landslides, floods and bridge failures throughout the region. Officials ordered evacuations as the rain was expected to continue.
El Salvador's director of civil protection, Jorge Melendez, said in a news conference that at least 24 people had died in the country, most of them buried in their houses by landslides.
The country is in a state of alert and preparing for "major disasters," Melendez said.
Authorities were evacuating people from the area around a volcano near the capital of San Salvador, where hundreds died in landslides in 1982.
Melendez said flooding had closed a major highway in the country's west and destroyed a bridge. In the eastern state of San Miguel, water overflowed from the Rio Grande river and had inundated large expanses of farmlands.
He said Sunday morning that the rain was expected to remain heavy for 24 hours and possibly continue until Wednesday. He said El Salvador had seen 7.9 inches (200 millimeters) of rain in the previous 12 hours.
Guatemalan officials confirmed 28 deaths in their country, adding that two more people were missing and that rain was expected for two more days. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a state of emergency that would be sent for approval to the congress Monday.
In Honduras, officials tallied at least nine deaths and the damaging of 2,500 homes, eight bridges and 29 roads.
"The worst is yet to come," said Rodolfo Funez, deputy director of the country's emergency commission.
Officials in Nicaragua said five people had died there with the rain abating somewhat.
Associated Press writers Sonia Perez in Guatemala, Freddy Cuevas in Honduras and Filadelfo Aleman in Nicaragua contributed to this story.