Death toll in Guatemala landslide rises to 161

The coffins of nine-year-old Marielos Sanches and his brother Heison, 12, victims of October 1st landslide.
The coffins of nine-year-old Marielos Sanches and his brother Heison, 12, victims of October 1st landslide.AFP

SANTA CATARINA PINULA, Guatemala (AFP) - The death toll from a landslide that devastated a Guatemalan village has risen to 161 as emergency workers continue pulling bodies from the mud and debris, officials said Tuesday.

The search for victims of the landslide, which tore through the village of Cambray II on Thursday night after heavy rain, resumed at dawn with the help of a Mexican team with trained rescue dogs, said Sergio Cabanas, head of the government's disaster response programme.

But hopes of finding survivors are growing increasingly slim, he said.

Emergency workers pulled 19 bodies from the debris Tuesday, Cabanas said, updating the previous toll from Monday night, when officials said there were 142 dead and about 300 missing.

Workers wore face masks as the stench of decomposing bodies increased, and the area has been closed off to journalists.

The search had to be suspended Sunday because of heavy rain that continued to lash the area, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, about 15km east of the capital.

Local authorities had urged the precarious hillside community to relocate several times, most recently in November last year.

But many families have refused, saying they have nowhere to go.

More than 53 per cent of the Central American country's 16 million people live in poverty.