El Salvador Falls Victim to Ruinous Rain Caused by Ida

    Soldiers and residents dug through rock and debris trying to find  people missing when a mudslide covered a town in El Salvador, part of a wave of flooding and landslides that has killed at least 124 people in this Central American country.

   Days of heavy rains, indirectly linked to Hurricane Ida's passage through the region, caused mud and boulders to sweep down the side of the Chichontepec volcano before dawn Sunday, burying homes and cars in the town of Verapaz, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside the capital, San Salvador.

  Homes, streets and cars were swallowed by the mud in the town of about 3,000 inhabitants.

  "It was terrible. The rocks came down on top of the houses and split them in two, and split the pavement," said Manuel Melendez, 61, who whose home was destroyed. "I heard people screaming all around."

  Amid a persistent drizzle, rescuers dug frantically for survivors late Sunday with shovels and even their bare hands. But the search was made difficult by collapsed walls, boulders and downed power lines that blocked heavy machinery.

  President Mauricio Funes declared a national emergency and called the damages incalculable.

  El Salvador's Civil Protection agency raised the death toll by to 124 late Sunday, with another 60 people missing.

   Almost 7,000 people saw their homes damaged by landslides or cut off by floodwaters following three days of downpours from a low-pressure system indirectly related to Hurricane Ida, which brushed Mexico's Cancun resort on Sunday before steaming into the Gulf of Mexico.

  The Associated Press has contributed to the report.

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