From: Sarah Grainger, Reuters, GUATEMALA CITY
Published September 26, 2010 07:16 AM

Tropical depression Matthew drenches Guatemala

Tropical Depression Matthew churned over Guatemala on Saturday, soaking already waterlogged sugar and coffee farms, and the government warned that mudslides could occur in the coming days.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom told people to stay home and urged communities in mountains and near rivers to take shelter inland as fast-moving Matthew looked set to slow and hang over Guatemala and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

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The storm lost force as it came in from the Gulf of Honduras and its maximum sustained winds decreased to near 35 mph late on Saturday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the danger had not yet passed.

"We must emphasize that despite the expected weakening of Matthew, torrential rains will continue over most of Central America during the next several days," the center said.

Although it was expected to weaken, Matthew still had the potential to bring 6 to 10 inches to Guatemala and southern Mexico and as much as 15 inches to some areas. The storm was moving west-northwest and could become almost stationary by Sunday night.

The hurricane center warned Matthew's rains could set off mudslides and flash floods.

Matthew is seen dying out over the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas and looked less likely to reach oil-producing areas of the southern Gulf of Mexico, but Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in his Twitter feed that his government was on alert.

Coffee and sugar farmers face rain on already clogged fields from this year's active hurricane season that has already battered the region. Growers worry rain from Matthew could delay the start of coffee and sugar harvests.

Graphic shows position of Mathew on Sunday and Monday.  Credit, NOAA National Hurricane Center.

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE68N0GZ20100926

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