Landslides kill at least 2 in Panama after heavy rains

PANAMA CITY Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:34am EST

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PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Heavy rains in Panama flooded villages and caused landslides that killed at least two people and destroyed hundreds of homes, the government said on Monday.

President Ricardo Martinelli on Monday declared a state of emergency in the province of Colon, on the Caribbean coast, and Capira and Chorrera, just outside of Panama City. He called for an emergency legislative session to approve aid to the areas.

"This is more serious than people thought," Martinelli said on his Twitter account.

Heavy rains since Friday inundated parts of this small Central American country, stemming from a low pressure system extending from Colombia to Costa Rica, said Arturo Alvarado, director of the national civil protection service.

Alvarado said more than 800 homes have flooded and at least 500 residents evacuated. Landslides blocked part of a major highway connecting Panama City to Colon and killed at least two people in Capira. Two people were missing in Colon after their car slid off a cliff.

Local media reported the village of Cirí de Los Sotos, in the province of Colon, was completely flooded and residents were seeking refuge in the church.

Parades celebrating Panama's independence from Spain, scheduled for Monday, were canceled in several parts of the country.

Rescue workers and officials with the Red Cross were en route to affected areas to aid recovery efforts. The rain is expected to subside late Monday, Alvarado said.

(Reporting by Lomi Kriel and Bill Trott)

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