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Many feared dead in Guatemala landslide

SANTA CATARINA PINULA, October 3, 2015

Diggers plowed into a huge mound of earth and rubble burying part of a Guatemalan town to search for any survivors of a massive landslide that killed at least 29 people and left hundreds more missing.

Rescue operations restarted early on Saturday in Santa Catarina Pinula on the southeastern flank of Guatemala City, after authorities said on Friday that as many as 600 people were unaccounted for after Thursday night's disaster.

Loosened by rain, tons of earth, rock and trees cascaded onto the town from the hillside above, flattening houses and trapping residents who had gone home for the night.

Emergency services said that at least 29 people had died, though fears that hundreds more were trapped threaten to make the landslide one of the worst natural disasters to hit Central America in recent years.

The initial list of dead included three babies.

Families and friends of victims gathered near a makeshift morgue near the excavation site to see if they recognized any bodies recovered. Others had arrived to help the soldiers, firemen, and neighbors with their rescue efforts.

The tragedy has hit Guatemala after weeks of political turmoil just as it prepares to elect a new president.

Last month, the outgoing president Otto Perez was forced to stand down and was arrested on corruption charges.

In October 2005, heavy rainfall triggered a devastating landslide in Panabaj in the southwest of the Central American country, burying the village. Hundreds of people are believed to have died, and many of the bodies were never recovered.-Reuters




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