SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Three days of heavy rains have forced nearly 13,000 people from their homes and killed at least one person in Costa Rica (search) and Panama, officials said Tuesday.
Costa Rica's National Emergency Commission said 7,500 people had been evacuated to official shelters in that Central American nation and the number could rise as rescue teams arrive from isolated communities. About 300 others were staying with relatives.
President Abel Pacheco (search) signed a decree of national emergency on Tuesday, making victims eligible for financial help.
"In other countries these things are handled by armies and they have equipment like helicopters, but here we do it with volunteers and we have done everything possible," said Pachecho, whose country has no formal armed forces.
In Panama (search), helicopters were plucking people from the rooftops of houses surrounded by floodwaters, according to the National Civil Defense System, which said 5,000 had been evacuated so far to schools and other safe structures.
Rains have been pounding the region since Saturday, surpassing the monthly rainfall average for some areas in just three days and creating widespread flooding.
Costa Rica's Red Cross reported one man killed by a landslide and it said an 8-year-old boy was missing after being caught in the current of a flood-swollen river.
The Commission said 12 bridges had collapsed and banana producers said they had suffered millions of dollars in losses.
Panamanian officials on Tuesday had not yet confirmed press reports of two dead there.