Hope dims for find­ing sur­vivors of deadly mud­slide in Gu­atemala


Hope faded Sun­day for find­ing any sur­vivors of a mud­slide that killed at least 131 peo­ple as the smell of rot­ting bod­ies spread across the enor­mous mound of earth and res­cuers re­ported the buried dwellings they reached were filled with wa­ter, sug­gest­ing any­one trapped in­side would have drowned.

Res­cue work­ers on Sun­day pulled more corpses from the mound cre­ated when a hill­side col­lapsed and cov­ered about 1.7 hectares (4 acres) with mud and dirt as deep as 15 me­ters.

Julio Sanchez, spokesman for Gu­atemala’s vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers, said 131 bod­ies had been pulled from the mud.

At an im­pro­vised morgue, 82 bod­ies have been iden­ti­fied and handed over to rel­a­tives, said mu­nic­i­pal med­i­cal ex­am­iner Dr. Car­los Au­gusto Ro­das Gon­za­lez. How­ever, other bod­ies, some of which were found in pieces, re­main uniden­ti­fied.

The grim list of the dead who have been iden­ti­fied in­cluded at least 26 chil­dren and teenagers.

Res­cuers de­cided to keep in­di­vid­ual emer­gency work­ers, rel­a­tives and re­porters off the in­creas­ingly foul-smelling mound of dirt. In­stead of dig­ging by hand and lis­ten­ing for sur­vivors, crews planned to use mostly back­hoes and bull­doz­ers to speed up the search for bod­ies.

“The peo­ple who could have been alive have drowned,” said ser­vices co­or­di­na­tor Ser­gio Ca­banas, ex­plain­ing that res­cue per­son­nel on foot would be sent out mainly when a back­hoe turns up a corpse. “Ninety per­cent of it we will do with heavy ma­chin­ery.”

Author­i­ties said about 300 peo­ple may still be miss­ing. But they left open the pos­si­bil­ity that many of them had sim­ply fled and taken refuge with rel­a­tives with­out con­tact­ing author­i­ties, or that they were not in the 125 buried homes when the mud­slide struck.

It was dis­cour­ag­ing news for those who still held out hope of find­ing rel­a­tives buried by Thurs­day night’s dis­as­ter, which in­un­dated much of the Cam­bray neigh­bor­hood in Santa Cata­rina Pin­ula, a mid­dle­class com­mu­nity of gov­ern­ment work­ers, sales­men, taxi driv­ers and cooks.


A stu­dent, mem­ber of the school march­ing band cries as she car­ries the cof­fin of her class­mate and fel­low band mem­ber Bryan San­doval who died in a mud­slide, to the Santa Cata­rina Pin­ula ceme­tery on the out­skirts of Gu­atemala City, Sun­day, Oct. 4.

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