Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli confirmed the deaths of eight people resulting from days of heavy rains, raising to 10 the number of fatalities from a storm that has forced authorities to temporarily close the Panama Canal.
A mudslide in the Caribbean coastal town of Portobelo killed eight people and left the community of 3,000 inhabitants cut off from the rest of the country, Martinelli told a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in Panama City, according to FOX News.
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced on Wednesday that, for the first time in its 96 year history, transit of ships has been "temporarily suspended" because the Alajuela and Gatun lakes have reached the highest levels ever recorded.
ACP Executive Vice President of Operations, Manuel Benitez, said the move was taken because transit through the Canal could be affected by the currents of the Chagres River, which flows into the channel on the way to Gamboa.
In the interior over 6,000 people, and 50,000 hectares of crops have been affected and domestic animals lost in 33 flooded communities.
The national emergency authority (Sinaproc) has been stretched, working around the clock in many locations. It issued a red alert on Wednesday and 5000 people from 18 communities in the Pacora region, east of Panama City, were evacuated, Newsroom Panama reports.