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Day of mourning after landslides

Guatemala has declared a day of mourning after torrential rains from a tropical depression caused landslides that killed at least 38 people - some of them rescuers trying to save those already buried under a wall of mud.

In the village of Nahuala, about 200 rescue workers suspended the search for bodies after heavy rain fell in the area, Civil Protection spokesman David de Leon said.

Two slides in the same spot in the town of Nahuala killed at least 20 along a highway leading north west of the capital towards Mexico. Another slide closer to Guatemala City killed at least 12.

"We will return when the rain ceases," Mr De Leon said. "It is difficult and dangerous to continue with the search."

Suagustino Pascual Tuy, a Nahuala police officer, said he and several others rushed to the Inter-American highway with picks and shovels after hearing radio reports of the fallen earth, which had buried two pick-up trucks and a bus. He said the crowds were able to rescue several people alive including his nephew, who was driving one of the pick-ups.

Mr Pascual Tuy said people were still digging through the rubble when the mountain above them began crackling. He shouted a warning, but moments later the second slide buried a number of rescuers. Mr Pascual Tuy ran for his life and the slide only caught his legs. "The mountain was making noise like an earthquake, but people wouldn't leave," he said. "They were being stubborn and didn't get out."

Regional fire department major Otto Mazariegos said at least 50 people were believed to be buried.

"Under the earth there is a bus that carried we don't know how many people, and there are those who tried to help the victims of the first slide," he said.

Rescue crews had recovered 20 bodies from that site, said fire department spokesman Jose Rodriguez. A few hours earlier, a landslide on the same highway partially buried a bus, killing 12 people.

Communications minister Guillermo Castillo said there have been 15 landslides in different spots along the Inter-American highway in the last 48 hours.


From Belfast Telegraph