- Title: GUATEMALA: Huge mudslide kills 1,400 in Guatemalan village
- Date: 9th October 2005
- Summary: WIDE MUDSLIDE VICTIM, JUAN IZQUITPUINU WALKING THROUGH DESTROYED HOME (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MUDSLIDE VICTIM, JUAN IZQUITPUINU, SAYING: "Thank God we were able to get that neighbour out. She is alive thanks to God, but all the others are dead. We are OK, the only thing is that my house was taken."
- Embargoed: 24th October 2005 13:00
- Location: Guatemala
- Country: Guatemala
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVAC3QBE9XKJV1HTSPLJJXG1VK6G
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: A Guatemalan village buried under tons of dirt and debris may be declared a Mayan mass grave as rescuers give up digging for the remains of up to 1,400 people killed in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Stan.
After days of heavy rain, mud, rocks and trees crashed down a volcano's slopes and into the Maya Indian village of Panabaj as people slept early on Wednesday, covering it in a quagmire up to 40 feet (12 meters) deep in places.
Some 1,400 people have disappeared and are dead according to the fire department, and a local official in charge of compiling death lists put the likely toll at about 1,000.
Foreign Minister Jorge Briz told Reuters the official toll was just over 500 dead but that was likely to at least double.
Exhausted rescuers and villagers dug for bodies in the stinking black mulch, choking on the smell of death. But they may have to abandon their search under a Guatemalan law that for health reasons puts a 72-hour limit on finding the dead.
Dozens of corpses have already been recovered and locals were drawing up names of the missing and dead, but with so many victims feared buried, authorities said they might abandon the search and declare the village a mass grave.
"The mudslide left many homes buried. Right now there is at least an estimated five metres (16.4 feet) of debris in some places. We are working on top of the roofs of the homes. The adverse climate conditions are not favouring us," said Hector Sicaja, Fire Chief.
Rescue workers stuffed herbs in their nostrils to block out the sickly odor of death. Others barked orders in the Mayan Tzutujil language as hundreds of men dug through the sludge with hoes, shovels and pick axes.
Behind a makeshift rope barrier, dozens of women dressed in the village's traditional purple blouses embroidered with birds and animals awaited news of missing kin.
"Thank God we were able to get that neighbour out. She is alive thanks to God, but all the others are dead. We are OK, the only thing is that my house was taken," said Juan Izquitpuinu, a survivor of the mudslide.
Across the region, mud-coated bodies piled up in morgues while survivors sobbed and said they needed food and water. Many did not know what had happened to relatives and were desperate for news. .
The deaths in Panabaj may triple earlier estimates of the toll of fatalities from Hurricane Stan in the poor, Central American nation. The storm claimed another 67 lives in El Salvador, 20 in Mexico, 10 in Nicaragua and four in Honduras.
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