2005-10-09 - Guatemala
Rescuers pulled bodies from Guatemalan villages devastated by mudslides, and other volunteers used machetes and their bare hands to dig for more victims as the aftermath of Hurricane Stan continued to wreak havoc across northern Central America, killing up to 1500 people.
Guatemalan officials said on Saturday that 508 people had been confirmed dead and 337 were missing in the country as a result of flooding and mudslides caused by the hurricane, which roared across the region last week. More than 100 other deaths have been reported in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The Mayan Indian village of Panabaj on Lake Atitlan, a popular tourist destination in Guatemala's western highlands, was particularly hard hit. Part of a rain-soaked volcano collapsed there early on Wednesday, sending down waves of mud, rocks and other debris, covering it in a quagmire up to 12 metres deep in places.
A fire department spokesman, Mario Cruz, said about 1400 people had disappeared and were dead. "There are no survivors here. It happened more than 48 hours ago. They are dead," Mr Cruz said.
The landslide was believed to be the worst single catastrophe spawned by several days of torrential rains. By Saturday, residents of some lakeside communities were speculating that, because so many bodies would not be retrievable, certain areas might have to be designated as mass burial grounds.
Officials said they had not been able to confirm those reports because the area is inaccessible by car, aircraft or helicopter. Efforts to determine the number of dead and missing have been further hindered by continuing rainfall.
The National Agency for Disaster Control in Guatemala City estimates that more than 100,000 Guatemalans in more than 400 communities have been affected by the disaster and that thousands have been evacuated to shelters.
Across Central America, residents are returning to their villages to discover that their homes and businesses are under water or have been swept away. In some rural areas, entire families have been killed or gone missing.