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Rare Hurricane Slams El Salvador Coast

Associated Press | May 20, 2005

PUERTO LA LIBERTAD, El Salvador - Hurricane Adrian slammed into El Salvador, unleashing torrential rains in an area prone to devastating floods and forcing some 14,000 people to seek higher ground.

The center of the hurricane hit a stretch of coast south of the capital San Salvador, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, which reported maximum sustained winds of almost 75 mph as Adrien made landfall. It was the first recorded Pacific hurricane to strike El Salvador.

The hurricane was expected to weaken and continue moving northeast across El Salvador at about 9 mph before cutting across Honduras.

Adrian, the eastern Pacific's first named tropical storm of the season, washed out roads and unleashed heavy rains that forecasters said could cause severe flooding.

"The hurricane has entered Salvadoran territory, and several things may now happen," President Tony Saca said. "This emergency situation isn't over yet."

The country's National Service for Territorial Studies said the hurricane hit land near the port of Acajutla, about 35 miles west of San Salvador, and was weakening.

U.S. forecasters placed Adrian closer to Puerto La Libertad, the beach resort nearest San Salvador. Streets in La Libertad were deserted as rains sprayed across an agitated surf and waves pounded at the pier.

"The electricity has gone out, the wind is getting stronger and it's raining nonstop," said Jorge Alberto Turcios, a guard at a restaurant in La Libertad.

"The waves are getting higher, there's not a soul on the street," Turcios said by telephone.

Earlier, Saca broadcast an appeal for his citizens to obey evacuation requests.

"We understand that they are guarding their belongings, but lives are worth more than anything," he told Radio La Chevere.

Authorities evacuated about 14,000 people from low-lying coastal areas, in some cases using helicopters as waters rose. Most were taken to improvised shelters at schools, where classes were canceled.

Rivers rose both in El Salvador and in neighboring Honduras, both nations devastated by Hurricane Mitch - a Caribbean storm - in 1998.

The rains began to wash out some roads in both countries, officials reported.

Already one death was indirectly linked to the storm: a military pilot died Wednesday when he crashed a small plane that he was ferrying from San Salvador's civilian airport to a military base as a precaution against the heavy winds.

The U.S. hurricane center reported Adrian had maximum sustained winds of about 80 mph before making landfall.

The region, where many people live in shacks clinging to sharp ravines, is particularly vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Mitch, arriving from the Caribbean, killed at least 9,000 people in Central America.


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