GUATEMALA CITY – A week of mudslides and flooding across Guatemala have killed more than 500 people and left another 337 missing, federal emergency officials said Saturday as rescuers in Central America and Mexico (search) still tried to reach isolated areas.
The newest death toll includes 37 people killed by a landslide in western Guatemala along the Mexican border. A fire official put Guatemala's death toll Friday at 287.
Guatemala has borne the brunt of heavy rains exacerbated by Hurricane Stan (search), which made landfall Tuesday on the Mexican Gulf Coast before quickly weakening to a tropical depression.
On the banks of the mountain Lake Atitlan (search), dozens of Mayan Indian villagers swarmed over a vast river of congealed mud that covered trees and houses, digging with hand tools for bodies under a landslide that swallowed an entire neighborhood.
Primitive wooden coffins piled up in the cemetery in Santiago Atitlan, waiting for badly decomposed bodies. Villagers held sprigs of native herbs to ward off odors as they dug mass graves for bodies that would be buried without names.
"Entire families have disappeared," said Diego Sojuel of the Santiago Atitlan municipal aid committee. "In some cases there is no one that can identify the cadavers. And in other cases it is because of the state of putrefaction that we are going to have to bury them without names."