Four dead as Tropical Storm Pilar dumps heavy rains on C. America

Three people have died due to the storm in El Salvador (Marvin RECINOS)
Three people have died due to the storm in El Salvador (Marvin RECINOS)

Tropical Storm Pilar loomed ominously off the Pacific Coast of Central America on Wednesday, provoking heavy rains that washed away crops and displaced hundreds of people as the death toll rose to four.

Since Sunday, three people have died due to the storm in El Salvador and one in neighboring Honduras, according to civil protection authorities.

In both countries and in Guatemala, hundreds of people have been evacuated from high-risk areas and taken to temporary shelters.

Pilar was about 160 miles (260 kilometers) off the coast of El Salvador Wednesday, generating winds of about 60 miles per hour, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a bulletin.

"The center of Pilar will continue to move away from the coast of Central America this afternoon and tonight," it said, adding that "gradual weakening" was forecast for the coming days.

However, the NHC warned that "heavy rainfall and flash flooding (are) still a threat over portions of Central America."

El Salvador's Environment Minister Fernando Lopez said the country was maintaining a high alert level.

"We cannot let our guard down... there is a lot of accumulated water, there could be river flooding and landslides."

The country's small farmers' association said many crops were flooded but the full extent of the damage had not been quantified.

Honduras also has an alert in place for coastal areas, while in Guatemala, emergency services are steeling themselves for possible flash floods.

Pilar arrived on the 25th anniversary of the Atlantic Hurricane Mitch, which left some 9,000 dead in the region.

Covering 523,000 square kilometers and with 50 million inhabitants, Central America is highly vulnerable to intense meteorological phenomena.

Farther north along the Pacific coast, Mexico was still recovering Wednesday from the devastating Hurricane Otis, which slammed into the city of Acapulco last week as scale-topping Category 5, killing at least 46 people.