October 2015– GUATEMALA – Hope is all but gone Sunday that any survivors will be found from the massive landslide on the outskirts of Guatemala’s capital. The death toll has risen to 86 and is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 missing people. Distraught relatives of the victims shoveled alongside diggers through the mounds of earth that destroyed homes in Santa Catarina Pinula on the southeastern flank of Guatemala City after Thursday night’s collapse of a hillside. Every batch of earth turned up by the diggers held more personal belongings, from mattresses and books to toys and Christmas decorations.
Clutching photos of loved ones, family members stood in line outside a makeshift morgue near the excavation site, some of them crying, to see if they recognized any corpses. “This is the worst thing that has happened to us,” said one woman who was waiting for news about 21 missing family members. Authorities said about 125 homes were destroyed or damaged Thursday night by the sudden landslide after heavy rain. “I went on an errand for my mother and when I returned there was nothing,” 17-year-old Carlos Ac told the French news agency AFP. His mother and seven siblings are still missing. The landslide struck the village of El Cambray II, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, about 15 kilometers east of the capital, Guatemala City.
Loosened by rain, tons of earth, rock and trees had cascaded onto a neighborhood of El Cambray II near the bottom of a ravine, flattening houses and trapping residents who had gone home for the night. Some houses were buried under about 15 meters (50 feet) of earth, and Guatemalan disaster agency Conred said it doubted any other survivors would be found. “Hope is the last think you lose, so we hope to find someone alive,” said Defense Minister Williams Mansilla, though he also acknowledged the likelihood was very low. Due to the unstable terrain and wet weather, volunteers would no longer be allowed to assist on Sunday. President Alejandro Maldonado said several countries, including the United States and Cuba, have offered to help. –VOA