Up to 21 dead and a hundred missing in Guatemala after huge landslide

Up to 21 are dead and a hundred are missing in Guatemala after a huge landslide buries homes in 50ft of mud after Hurricane Eta wreaks havoc in Central America

  • Rescue teams are searching for more than 100 missing people in Guatemala
  • Hurricane Eta toppled trees and caused a landslide above the village of Queja
  • More than 20 people are confirmed dead as the storm heads towards Cuba 

Dozens have been killed and houses have been buried in up to 50ft of mud after a huge landslide in Guatemala brought about by Hurricane Eta.

Rescue teams are desperately searching for more than 100 missing people, with 21 confirmed dead as the storm continues to batter Central America.   

Eta’s torrential downpours toppled trees, engorged swift-moving rivers, and ripped down parts of a mountainside above the village of Queja in the central Guatemalan region of Alta Verapaz, burying dozens of people in their homes.

 The tropical storm is now heading towards Cuba and the southern tip of Florida, with further destruction expected.

Rescue workers search for victims of a musdlide caused by the passage of Hurricane Eta in the village of Queja, in San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala

An injured man is carried on a stretcher after the storm battered Central America, killing dozens and injuring many more

The wreckage of a trailer is seen at an area hit by a mudslide, caused by heavy rains brought by Eta, as the search for victims continues

Rescue teams are desperately searching for more than 100 missing people, with 21 confirmed dead as well as destruction to many homes and businesses

The rains triggered more mudslides in Queja late on Saturday, and the head of a local emergency worker team said rescue efforts had been called off, possibly permanently.

‘We are coordinating so that all the personal are evacuated in the morning because we can’t work there. If we stay, lives will be lost,’ said the emergency worker, Juan Alberto Leal.

Some of the houses in Queja are under 50ft of mud, Leal said, with relentless rain making the soil too loose to safely work, and new landslides forcing workers to flee to safer ground in the village.

The US National Hurricane Center issued tropical storm warnings- for southern Florida and the Florida Keys, and warnings were issued for central Cuba; parts of southern Florida and the Keys were even put under a hurricane watch.

The rains triggered more mudslides in Queja late on Saturday, and the head of a local emergency worker team said rescue efforts had been called off, possibly permanently

Some of the houses in Queja are under 50ft of mud, Leal said, with relentless rain making the soil too loose to safely work

The storm is expected to hit Cuba by early Sunday, and approach the Florida Keys and south Florida late Sunday or Monday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday for eight counties at the end of the state as Eta approached, urging residents to stock up on supplies. 

South Florida started emptying ports and a small number of shelters opened in Miami and the Florida Keys for residents in mobile homes and low lying areas.

Miami Dade County declared a state of emergency Friday night and also warned a flood watch would be in effect through Tuesday night. 

The storm is expected to hit Cuba by early Sunday, and approach the Florida Keys and south Florida late Sunday or Monday

Rescue workers in Guatemala used a helicopter to evacuate survivor Emilio Caal, who said he lost as many as 40 family members and relatives

Eta was once a Category 4 hurricane, and authorities from Panama to Mexico were still surveying the damages following days of torrential rains during the week.  

Rescue workers in Guatemala used a helicopter to evacuate survivor Emilio Caal, who said he lost as many as 40 family members and relatives. 

Caal, 65, suffered a dislocated shoulder when the landslide sent rocks, trees and earth hurtling onto the home where he was about to sit down to lunch with his wife and grandchildren. Caal said he was blown several yards by the force of the slide, and that none of the others were able to get out.

‘My wife is dead, my grandchildren are dead,’ said Caal from a nearby hospital.

In neighboring Honduras, 68-year-old Maria Elena Mejia Guadron died when the brown waters of the Chamelecon river poured into San Pedro Sula’s Planeta neighborhood before dawn Thursday.

Gloria Cac, a member of the Poqomchi’ people and a resident of Queja in Guatemala said 22 family members were missing after the mountain collapsed

Cars, homes and people were buried under the landslide which brought up to 50ft of mud into the village of Queja

Mirian Esperanza Najera Mejia had fled her home in the dark with her two children and Mejia, her mother. But while she held tight to her children, the current swept away Mejia.

Najera searched desperately for her mother Friday morning. But Mejia’s body was later recovered.

‘When the flooding started, the whole family was leaving the house,’ said family friend Nery Solis. ‘Mirian had her two children and suddenly the current grabbed them and she wasn’t able to get her mom.’

In southern Mexico, across the border from Guatemala, 20 people died as heavy rains attributed to Eta caused mudslides and swelled streams and rivers, according to Chiapas state civil defense official Elias Morales Rodriguez.

Relief corps and volunteers place food in helicopters to send victims of Tropical Storm Eta

Queja had been home to about 1,300 people, according to government data and few homes survived

The worst incident in Mexico occurred in the mountain township of Chenalho, where 10 people were swept away by a rain-swollen stream; their bodies were later found downstream.

Flooding in the neighboring state of Tabasco was so bad that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador cut short a trip to western Mexico and was flying to Tabasco, his home state, to oversee relief efforts.

Hurricane Eta’s arrival in northeast Nicaragua Tuesday followed days of drenching rain as it crawled toward shore. Its slow, meandering path north through Honduras pushed rivers over their banks.

Gloria Cac, a member of the Poqomchi’ people and a resident of Queja in Guatemala said 22 family members were missing after the mountain collapsed.

‘All her family is gone, she’s the only survivor. Her dad, mom, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, they’re all gone. Twenty-two family members and it’s just her alive,’ a visibly distraught Cac, carrying a small child in her arms, said through an interpreter in a recorded video.

The devastation harked back to Hurricane Mitch, which killed some 10,000 people in Central America in 1998

President Alejandro Giammattei on Friday suggested up to 150 people could have been buried in the Queja landslide

Queja had been home to about 1,300 people, according to government data. Not all its houses were destroyed, and most survivors have already been evacuated, officials say.

‘At ground zero there is a terrible reality,’ said Francisco Muz, a retired general who was helping in the rescue efforts.

The weather front spread destruction from Panama to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico, has continued to push the death toll higher in those countries. It now stands above 65.

In the Mexican state of Chiapas, flooding has killed 19 people, many swept up by rivers whose banks burst, state authorities said. North of Chiapas in Tabasco state, the deluges killed two more people, the federal government said.

The devastation harked back to Hurricane Mitch, which killed some 10,000 people in Central America in 1998.

President Alejandro Giammattei on Friday suggested up to 150 people could have been buried in the Queja landslide. 

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