At least 17 people have died and more than 15 others are missing after Wednesday night rain caused severe mudslides in parts of Costa Rica, according to the nation’s Red Cross.
More than 600 people have sought refuge in 14 shelters, said the Costa Rica National Commission for Emergencies.
Images on local TV, showed rescue crews digging through wrecked homes. Emergency crews were searching for survivors, but so far have recovered only corpses, according to Hector Blanco, a Red Cross spokesman. Four of the dead were children.
Rodrigo Araya, born and raised in San Antonio de Escazu, about 10 miles from San Jose, said he awoke to what sounded like a plane landing.
“You could hear people asking for help but could not see anything,” said Araya.
“I know 20 families lived there together. Some were very poor and had settled near the banks of the river,” said Flory Quintero, who lives nearby. “When it happened, it sounded like a turbine.”
At least nine bridges have collapsed across the country, and neighboring countries were asked for aircraft to help reach some of the 65 communities impacted by the storm.
Classes were indefinitely canceled at many of Costa Rica’s public schools, the education minister said on Teletica.
About 800,000 people have been left without safe water supplies, and locals were told to boil any water before drinking or cooking.
The rain is expected to continue into Friday.