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Guatemala landslides bury hundreds

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Guatemala landslides bury hundreds
 

05 Sep 2010 16:22 GMT

After dozens were killed on Saturday, a fresh landslide overnight may have buried hundreds trying to rescue survivors.

An overnight landslide caused by flooding may have buried up to 300 people along a highway near the small town Guatemalan town of Alaska, the town’s mayor has reportedly said.

The government, meanwhile, estimates that up to 150 were buried.

Al Jazeera’s Martin Asturias, reporting from the city of Chimaltenango, said the people were buried in the last of three landslides that have hit the Inter-American Highway in the past 24 hours.

The third landslide struck as hundreds attempted to rescue those buried in the previous landslides.
 

National tragedy

Unrelenting rains and severe weather have lashed Guatemala, leaving at least 28 people dead over the past two days, in what the country’s president has called a “national tragedy”.

altTwelve people were killed and another dozen injured on Saturday when a rain-triggered landslide buried a bus travelling along the highway in Guatemala’s highlands.

Guatemala’s national radio station reported that other landslides created a traffic jams up to 75km long.

The highway is now “practically closed,” Guatemala’s government said Sunday. Weeks of heavy rain have caused flooding that have affected some 40,000 people in the country.

At least four other people died in a house in western Quetzaltenango on Saturday after it collapsed due to a landslide – adding to weather-related deaths from Friday.

Money running out

Alvaro Colom, the Guatemalan president, warned that 24,000 more people are at risk as the government runs out of funds to deal with the crisis.

“Top priority at present is dealing with this emergency. There are no funds left to deal with earlier disasters like the one caused by [tropical storm] Agatha,” in late May, Colom said on Saturday after touring some of the affected areas.

He said weeks of heavy rains – including the latest torrent brought on by Hurricane Frank – had caused between $350-500 million in destruction across the country.

Meteorologists have forecast another 24-36 hours of heavy rain throughout much of Guatemala.

Mexico on alert

Meanwhile the weather forecast of more rain across Central America has prompted officials in Mexico to take precautions against landslides.

Heavy flooding in the Mexican Gulf state of Tabasco forced thousands of people from their homes, while authorities in neighbouring Chiapas and Oaxaca states, which border Guatemala, and the state of Veracruz also reported serious flooding. “The bad weather in the southeast has caused the worst rainy season on record. We are marshaling aid for the affected area,” Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, wrote on his Twitter page.

Mexico’s power company opened floodgates on some hydroelectric dams in the region, worsening the flooding in some low-lying areas, but no related deaths were reported.
 

*Source: Al Jazeera and agencies http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/09/20109504110783907.html