Guatemala Landslide: At Least 30 Dead, Hundreds Missing, Death Toll Still Rising After Torrential Rains

A Guatemala landslide has killed at least 30 people, with potentially hundreds more missing, after heavy rains created a landslide that buried a part of a settlement on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Guatemala City, MSN is reporting.

Torrential rains soaked the Central American town of Santa Catarina Pinula, about ten miles east of Guatemala City, on Thursday and Friday. Late Thursday night, the rain-soaked soil gave way, bringing a deadly cascade of mud, trees, and debris crashing down about 300 feet onto a Cambray, a neighborhood of about 100 homes at the bottom of the hill.

Although family members, as of this post, have only notified authorities of 100 people missing, National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, Alejandro Maldonado, said in remarks made available via CNN that the number of missing could be as high as 600, based on the number of homes destroyed in the landslide.

“The figure we are using as potentially missing — and I want to emphasize that this is an estimate — is of 600 people missing.”

Maldonado also stated that many of the residents of the city ignored warnings to evacuate.

Nehemias Gonzalez lost his 21-year-old wife, Masiel Alexandra, and their 2-year-old child, Angel Efrain, to the landslide. He was at his McDonald’s job Thursday night, working an extra shift, when the landslide buried his home and killed his wife and child.

“The last thing she said when I called her on the telephone in the afternoon was that she loved me. I love her, too.”

Dulce del Carmen Lavarenzo Pu, whose cousin died in the landslide, described the moment when it hit.

“Everything went black, because the lights went out. Ash and dust were falling, so we left the house. You couldn’t see anything.”

Marleni Pu has family members buried beneath the rubble; she his hoping against hope that they are still alive.

“My uncles, my cousins, my nieces and nephews are all there. Six houses where my relatives lived are all under the hillside now.”

Rescuers were able to pull at least one of her relatives from the rubble – 23-year-old Rony Ramos, who had been trapped upside down, unable to move. Fortunately, his face was in an air pocket. Rescue worker Cecilio Chacaj describes the moment he heard the man’s cries for help.

“When our personnel were searching through the rubble, they heard a voice. They located the man, who was buried about two meters (six feet) under rubble.”

It would take rescuers five hours, using saws and jackhammers, to be able to free Ramos.

Other relatives of potential victims say they’ve gotten text messages from their relatives buried beneath the rubble; rescuers are working with the telephone company to try to pinpoint the victims’ locations.

At the site of the landslide, rescuers have been working around the clock, using generators to power their equipment and overhead lights. Rescuers have gotten so exhausted that they’ve been spotted sleeping on the ground. Fortunately, area businesses have been keeping the rescuers stocked with food, coffee, and bottled water as they work to rescue the victims.

The landslide is one of the worst natural disasters to strike Guatemala in recent years, according to Reuters. A 2005 landslide in Panabaj, Guatemala is believed to have killed hundreds of people. Many of the bodies were never recovered.

The Guatemalan government has promised aid to the landslide victims.

[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/georgemphoto]