PANAMA CITY – Panama declared three disaster areas on Sunday after two people were killed in landslides triggered by torrential rain.
“I have just seen the people who were killed and spoken with their families. This is more serious than people thought,” President Ricardo Martinelli said in a posting on Twitter.
The worst-hit areas were Colón province on the Caribbean coast and the Capira area 40 miles west of Panama City, where a landslide buried two people inside their home.
Martinelli visited the region and declared Capira, Chorrera and Colón disaster areas, to speed up assistance to them, an official statement said.
In Chorrera, water filled homes to the roof, rivers burst their banks and shops were flooded. At least 800 homes have been damaged by the storm and 94 people had to be evacuated by rescue officials, emergency workers said.
“I have lived in Chorrera for 38 years and never seen anything like this,” said Social Development Minister Guillermo Ferrufino. He also said the death toll could rise as authorities begin to reach areas cut off by the heavy rains.