The landslide in Guatemala may have claimed far more lives than what is being feared. With the death toll having risen to almost 90, distraught relatives joined the rescue workers in shifting earth that buried their loved ones.
Guatemalans seem to be steadily losing hope of finding their relatives alive, who lay buried under after a mountain of mud. The landslide occurred when the side of a towering hill broke loose suddenly and crashed down on the village. What made the matters worse is that the landslide occurred in the dead of the night, when most of the residents of the village were in their homes, sleeping.
As news of the landslide in Guatemala spread, families have been collecting at the site and could be seen scrambling through the rubble in the desperate hope of finding their relatives alive. Collectively, they formed long bucket lines of up to 100 people to pass away the dirt and help in whatever they can, reported CNN.
However, given the fact that the village, nestled in a valley, was buried under at least 50 feet of wet mud after the landslide, the hopes of finding anyone alive is diminishing by the hour.
Notwithstanding the odds, relatives of the victims have been digging through the rubble with whatever crude tools they could salvage. They have been shoveling alongside diggers through the huge mounds of earth that destroyed homes and buried scores of people in Santa Catarina Pinula on the southeastern flank of Guatemala City.
However, the shifting of earth has mostly yielded personal possessions and household items, apart from toys and Christmas decorations that belonged to more than 400 people who lived there. By early Sunday, excavators and rescue workers had managed to unearth a total of 86 people, all dead, from the horrific landslide. Guatemala authorities claim there are more than 350 more people who are still to be accounted for, but given the enormity of the landslide, they aren’t optimistic about finding anyone alive beneath the earth.
Of the 86 dead, 17 were children, confirmed the Guatemala Attorney General’s office, adding that the landslide is one of the worst natural disasters to hit Central America in recent years, reported Reuters.
Relatives that have assembled at the disaster site, only have sad news to share. Ana Maria Escobar, a 48-year-old housewife, stood sobbing as she desperately clung to the hope of finding any one of her 21 relatives alive.
“This is the worst thing that has happened to us. So far only my sister-in-law has been found.”
Excavators have been having a very tough time to dig through the soil, without further damaging the remains of the people who died in the landslide. As bodies were being carefully extracted, the signs of struggle were quite evident from the scratch marks on the victims of the landslide. Rescue workers think victims might have tried for hours to claw their way to safety, but might have failed from exhaustion. Gaby Ramirez, who didn’t have any relatives but was searching for his neighbors by manually shoveling since early morning, said as follows.
“I don’t hope to find him alive, but I do hope to find his body and bury him. I have to bury him, I can’t leave him there.”
Guatemalan disaster agency Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres (Conred) fears that there might not be survivors underneath the earth. Some of the houses have been buried under 50 feet (15 meters) of mud, it said. Guatemala’s defense minister, Williams Mansilla, urged people to stay strong, but somberly added that the likelihood of finding anyone alive is very low.
“Hope is the last [thing] you lose, so we hope to find someone alive.”
The landslide may have significantly delayed Guatemala’s plans to elect a new President.
[Image Credit: Johan Ordonez / Getty Images]