Rescue operations have been slowed by destroyed roads and bridges, forcing authorities to bring in the military and use helicopters and speedboats for rescue operations.

Women walk in an area affected by a mudslide after the passage of Storm Eta, in Purulha, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, November 6, 2020.
Women walk in an area affected by a mudslide after the passage of Storm Eta, in Purulha, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, November 6, 2020. (Reuters)

About 150 people have either died or remain unaccounted for in Guatemala due to mudslides caused by powerful Storm Eta, which buried an entire village, President Alejandro Giammattei said.

Giammattei said on Friday that an army unit had arrived in the northern village of Queja to begin rescue efforts.

He said a preliminary report from the unit indicated that "150 homes have been buried with 100 people dead."

Giammattei added that another mudslide in the northeastern department of Huehuetenango, on the border with Mexico, had left 10 dead.

"We've calculated that between deaths and those missing, the unofficial figures show around 150 dead," said Giammattei.

He said the situation in Queja was "critical" with heavy rain continuing to fall and provoking new mudslides, while roads are still blocked.

Photos of the Queja landslide showed a lengthy strip of brown mud peeled from the lush green hillside. Footage from another part of Guatemala showed boats ferrying villagers in flooded regions and rescue workers carrying children on their backs, wading through water up to their hips .

He said some 2,500 people in the impoverished Mayan indigenous area had lost their belongings in the deluge of mud.

Giammattei said there were several refuges in the area because some villages are cut off and lacking food and water.

READ MORE: Eta's rains and flooding wreak devastation in Central America

Powerful storm

One of the fiercest storms to hit Central America in years, Eta on Friday dumped more torrential rain across large parts of Central America and the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned "catastrophic flooding" in the region would continue.

Rescue operations across Honduras and Guatemala have been slowed by destroyed roads and bridges, forcing authorities to draft in the military and use helicopters and speedboats to rescue people stranded on top of their houses.

Eta wrought chaos after plowing into Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday with winds of 241 kph (150 miles per hour), before weakening to a tropical depression and unleashing torrents of rain on regions of Honduras and Guatemala.

"This is the worst storm Honduras has seen in decades. The damage will undoubtedly be significant," said Mark Connolly, UNICEF Representative in Honduras, who estimated about 1.5 million children there will be impacted by Eta.

Giammattei earlier added that bad weather was hampering emergency efforts, which were further limited by the country having only one helicopter adequate for rescue operations.

"We have a lot of people trapped [whom] we have not been able to reach," he said.

A further 10 people were killed and six people are missing in Honduras. About 4,000 people had been rescued but many others remained trapped on their roofs, added Max Gonzalez, the minister of the National Risk Management System (SINAGER).

"We have been without food for two days... waiting to be evacuated," William Santos, sheltering on top of a banana packing plant with about 300 people in northern Honduras, told Reuters.

READ MORE: Hurricane Eta lashes Nicaragua as Category 4 storm

Source: AFP