Hope fades for landslide victims

Guatemalan officials say they have
given up hope for  people buried when a landslide engulfed a highway
north-west of the capital.

The mud crashed onto the road as a
crowd tried to dig out vehicles buried by a previous landslide.

President Alvaro Colom has called
the landslides a “national tragedy”.

So far 44 people are known to have
died, 54 injured, and 16 are missing.

Emergency workers have recovered dozens of bodies from the massive landslide that engulfed people as they tried to dig out
people caught in an earlier landslide on the Inter-American Highway north-west
of Guatemala City.

“The mountain was making a
noise like an earthquake, but people wouldn’t leave,” a police officer,
Pascual Tuy, said, adding saying he tried to shout a warning as the hillside
began crumbling.

Civil defence director Sergio
Cabanas said rescue efforts were suspended amid fears of further mudslides
triggered by weeks of heavy rain.

“We have given up for dead all
those trapped in the mud,” he said, adding that the authorities were now
focusing on bringing in heavy equipment to clear the roads.

Weeks of heavy rain have saturated
Guatemala’s mountainous terrain, causing hillsides to collapse suddenly.

Parts of the country have seen the
heaviest rainfall for half a century, according to Guatemala’s national
meteorological institute.

The Central American nation was
still trying to recover from the effects of a tropical storm that left 165
people dead in May.

President Colom, who has declared a
state of emergency, said the latest rains had undone all the reconstruction
work done since then.

“It’s painful that poor people
always pay the price of natural disasters,” he said.