Death toll in Guatemala mudslide tragedy climbs to 56: Official

Rescuers carry a victim after a landslide at Cambray village, in Santa Catarina Pinula municipality.
Rescuers carry a victim after a landslide at Cambray village, in Santa Catarina Pinula municipality.AFP

SANTA CATARINA PINULA, Guatemala (AFP) - At least 56 people were killed in massive mudslides that buried some 125 homes in a town on the outskirts of Guatemala’s capital, officials said Saturday, amid fears the toll could rise.

Julio Sanchez, a spokesman for firefighters who are leading the search for survivers, told reporters that several children, including some newborns, were among the dead in Santa Catarina Pinula.

Sanchez said 350 people were still missing, raising the prospect that the number of people who perished in the disaster could rise much higher.

The death toll has steadily climbed in the day and a half since heavy rains triggered the mudslide, as search and rescue efforts continued.

Thursday night, waterlogged earth and debris tore through the village of El Cambray II, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, destroying or damaging 125 homes.

At dawn on Saturday, rescue workers, police, soldiers and volunteers began a second day of clawing away at the debris with picks and shovels.

Two firefighters were injured later in the day, when a wall collapsed as they were trying to extract a body from the rubble.

Nearby, relatives of the missing checked in at a makeshift morgue set up next to the buried homes.

Municipal authorities had urged the community, about 15km east of the capital Guatemala City, to relocate several times, most recently in November of last year.