GUATEMALA CITY (REUTERS) - Hundreds of rescue workers dug through sludge and rock on Friday looking for survivors of a massive mudslide in Guatemala that killed at least nine people and left as many as 600 missing, burying homes in a town on the edge of the capital.
Heavy rains swept a torrent of boulders and mud over dozens of homes on Thursday night in Santa Catarina Pinula on the southeastern flank of Guatemala City, one of the worst mudslides to hit the poor Central American country in recent memory.
Alejandro Maldonado, head of Guatemalan disaster agency Conred, told a news conference at least nine lives had been lost and that as many as 600 people could still be missing after the disaster, which hit 125 homes in the town.
Earlier, authorities said that at least 25 people were also injured in the tragedy.
Melina Hidalgo, 35, said she was washing clothes when there was a loud crash and the lights went out. Emerging onto the street, she found neighbouring houses were covered in a deluge of soil and mud.
Felled electricity poles were giving off sparks, and there were people crying, searching for children, she added. “I feel like I’ve lost my loved ones because all my neighbors died,” Hidalgo said.
Oscar Raul de Leon and his family abandoned their home after he went looking for his cousin, only to find the man’s house destroyed. “I’d prefer to lose my things than any of my children,” de Leon said.
The government said 600 people were helping to sift through the rubble to pull out survivors while authorities set up a shelter to help people who had lost their homes.