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Page last updated at 23:17 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

El Salvador facing food shortage

A man carries his belongings after a landslide in El Salvador
Thousands of people have been left homeless by the floods

About 10,000 people in El Salvador are in need of food aid after devastating floods washed away crops.

Three days of national mourning are being held following the deaths of at least 140 people in the floods.

Thousands are living in shelters as a result of the disaster and large parts of the country are without electricity and clean water.

The areas around the capital, San Salvador, and the central province of San Vicente were hit hardest.

President Mauricio Funes has declared a national emergency.

At least 49 of the dead are believed to be children.

The torrential rains washed away crops across the region, leaving thousands of survivors to face the dangerous lack of a stable food supply, the UN World Food Programme says.

It hopes to deliver 90 tonnes of aid to the area in the coming days.

Bridges washed away

However, access remains a major challenge as civil defence authorities say 18 bridges and many more roads have been destroyed.

Heavy machinery has been brought in to try to reach villages which have been cut off for days.

President Funes has blamed previous Salvadorian governments for failing to put in place the prevention measures which could have mitigated the worst effects of the floods.

He is also calling upon the country's National Assembly to release $150m of international aid money immediately.

El Salvador map, showing flood-hit areas and path of Hurricane Ida

In the town of Verapaz in San Vicente, soldiers and civilians have been searching debris left by a landslide for dozens of missing people.

A torrent of mud and boulders from the Chichontepec volcano hit the town on Sunday, wrecking 300 homes and burying cars.

President Funes visited Verapaz and spoke to some of the 800 residents who have been moved to emergency shelters.

The BBC's weather centre says the disastrous rains were mainly caused by a low pressure system in the Pacific, which was linked indirectly to Hurricane Ida.

Ida, which passed the country three days ago, was downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico on Monday.


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