Over 130 Feared Dead, Hundreds Missing in Guatemala Landslide

Rescue teams have found more than 130 bodies and up to 300 others are missing, feared dead.

2 min read
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Guatemalan authorities on Sunday said rescue teams have found more than 130 bodies while more than 300 are missing and feared dead after a massive landslide on Thursday night.

Despair in the search for hundreds of people buried in a landslide that swallowed part of a Guatemalan town is so deep that some relatives feel lucky simply to have found the bodies of their loved ones.

Families on Sunday lit candles for relatives engulfed by a mass of earth and rubble that crashed down on a neighbourhood in Santa Catarina Pinula.

“I feel lucky because other families can’t even cry over their dead,” said Alejandro Lopez, a 45-year-old taxi driver, who recovered the bodies of two daughters and a grandson.

Authorities said on Sunday they had so far recovered 131 bodies in the town on the south-eastern flank of Guatemala City.

Heavy rains sent earth and rock cascading over homes and trapping residents inside on Thursday night. No survivors have been found this weekend despite the efforts of around 1,800 rescue workers sifting through the rubble.

Rain hampered search and rescue efforts on Sunday.

The El Cambray II neighborhood battered by the landslide lies at the bottom of a deep ravine ringed by trees.

Authorities had flagged risks of flooding and landslides for El Cambray II, saying in a report last year that construction permits should have never been granted for the neighbourhood.

The report also recommended local authorities consider relocating families living in the area, but as in many other towns in the impoverished Central American country with a history of catastrophic landslides, residents remained.

In 2005, hundreds of people were killed when torrential rains triggered a landslide that buried the village of Panabaj. Many of the bodies were never recovered.

The question of how to avoid these disasters has re-emerged just as Guatemala prepares to elect a new president in a second round run-off on October 25.

The government has been in disarray for months. President Otto Perez was forced to resign and was arrested on corruption charges last month, with his former vice president Alejandro Maldonado stepping in until the election winner takes office.

Doctors at a shelter in Santa Catarina Pinula worried more about the immediate fallout for survivors of the disaster, describing widespread cases of emotional trauma.

“Mourning is very difficult without a corpse,” said Elser Oronez, 41, a senior physician at the shelter. “Now comes the hardest part for them.”

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Topics:  Landslide   Guatemala 

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