The Heat Is Online

Intense Flooding Leaves At Least 136 People Dead in Guatemala

Up to 100 feared buried in Guatemala landslide

President tells residents to avoid highways for fear of more slides, Sept. 5. 2010

GUATEMALA CITY — A massive landslide buried up to 100 people in Guatemala trying to dig out a bus caught in deep mud as torrential rains battered the  country.

The weekend death toll from slides and flooding caused by the rains has already reached 36 and the fire department said on Sunday that up to another 100 people may have been buried by a second slide on a major highway outside the capital.

"A wall of earth fell on a bus and around 100 local people organized themselves to dig out the victims," said fire department spokesman Sergio Vasquez. "Then another landslide came along and buried them."

Emergency workers have already recovered the bodies of 18 victims at the site but warn it could take up to two days to dig out all the corpses.

The first highway slide near midday Saturday partially buried a bus under tons of mud at kilometer marker 81 on a highway leading northwest of the capital toward Mexico. Officials said at least 12 people died. That led President Alvaro Colom to declare a national emergency. He said four children and two adults were buried in other slides elsewhere.

More than 30 separate landslides cut the Inter-American Highway, one of Guatemala's main roads, within a single 30 mile stretch, local media reported.

Emergency services officials warned further rain was expected on Sunday and Monday. "It is a tragic day. Today alone 18 people have died, 12 buried by a hill when the traveled in a bus," Colom told a news conference.

The president told officials to close the highway for fear of more slides.

"There are several hillsides that are loose and could fall. So we ask the population to not go out, to avoid moving along the highways," he said.
 But hours later, vehicles were trapped by another slide at kilometer 171, officials reported, and some of the people who came to rescue them were themselves caught by following slide.

Civil Defense director Sergio Cabanas said at least 10 people were killed — some in vehicles and some among people who came to rescue them. He said at least 60 people are missing.

Regional fire department Maj. Otto Mazariegos told reporters that some of the victims of the second slide were rescuers.

"We are told that there are 150 missing," he said. "Under the earth there is a bus that carried we don't know how many people, and there are those who tried to help the victims of the first slide."

Heavy rains from Tropical Depression 11-E have pelted Guatemala for days, unleashing deadly mudslides in several areas, cutting highways and forcing officials to evacuate thousands of people.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Heavy rains devastate Guatemala, Sept . 4, 2010

A state of emergency has been declared in Guatemala, where days of heavy rain have caused widespread flooding and landslides.

At least 20 people have been killed, including at least 10 who died when a bus was engulfed by a mudslide.

President Alvaro Colom said the rains had undone all the reconstruction work completed since Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed 165 people in May.

He has asked congress to approve emergency funds for rebuilding.

Days of heavy rains have saturated Guatemala's mountainous terrain, causing hillsides to collapse suddenly and without warning.
Buried alive
The worst landslide buried a packed bus as it travelled on the main Inter-American highway, west of the capital Guatemala City.

At least 10 people were killed, and emergency workers had to dig through thick mud to rescue 20 others from the wreckage.
In the western region of Quetzaltenango, a family of four died when their home was buried by a mudslide.

At least four other deaths have been reported around the country. About 4,000 people have been evacuated from their houses, reports said.
More than 100km (65 miles) of the Inter-American highway has been closed to all traffic, and many other roads have been blocked.

A bridge that was replaced after being destroyed by Tropical Storm Agatha has again been smashed by floods, cutting the main route to the south-west of the country.

President Colom said the rains had "destroyed all the work that has been done in the last few weeks" and caused damage estimated at up to half a billion dollars (£330m).

He said he would also propose a special tax to help fund reconstruction.

Guatemala's national meteorological service forecast that the rains would continue for another 48 hours.