Death toll rises to 131 in Guatemala landslide

Number of deaths have reached to 131 after massive Guatemala mudslide, as rescue teams continue to search for hundreds of missing people

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Rescuers carry the bodies of mudslide victims toward the coroner's truck, in Santa Catarina Pinula, on the outskirts of Guatemala City, October 4, 2015.

After heavy rain caused a massive landslide on Thursday at a neighbourhood in Santa Catarina Pinula of Guatemala, officials announced on Sunday the number of deaths have reached to at least 131 people.

According to reports, 150 people still remain missing, but volunteer fire brigade spokesman Julio Sanchez claims there are more than 300 people missing and unaccounted for, AFP reported.

Another official at disaster agency Conred said the rescuers don’t expect to find anymore survivors, but will still continue their search on Monday.

Funerals have been held for some of the victims who died in one of the worst natural disasters that has struck the Central American Nation in recent years, as families and the loved ones lit candles for them on Sunday.

People attending the funeral of members of the Sandoval family, mudslide victims in Santa Catarina Pinula, Guatemala City, October 4, 2015.

"I feel lucky because other families can't even cry over their dead," said Alejandro Lopez, a 45-year-old taxi driver, who lost his two daughters and a grandson.

“But I would like to find the mother of my daughters," he told Reuters.

Doctors at a shelter in Santa Catarina Pinula are more worried about the 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."

The El Cambray II neighbourhood that has been smashed by mudslides, is situated near the bottom of a ravine surrounded by trees.

Experts had warned in a report released last year, that construction licenses should never have been granted for the neighbourhood. They had also recommended the families living in the area should be relocated, but no action has been taken.

Now authorities plan to start this process and force families living in the high-risk zones to relocate.

Guatemala is known for its history of disastrous landslides. In 2005, torrential rains had again led to a devastating landslide in the village of Panabaj, killing hundreds, as most of the bodies were never found.

The recent tragedy happened just as the country is getting ready to elect a new president in a second round run-off on October 25, following weeks of political turmoil.

Last month, outgoing president Otto Perez was pressured to resign and was jailed due to corruption charges. Currently, his former vice president Alejandro Maldonado is filling in until the new president steps into office.

TRTWorld and agencies