A national emergency is declared in Guatemala after mudslides caused by torrential rains leave at least 38 dead and dozens missing
Torrential rains from a tropical depression caused landslides that have killed at least 38 people in Guatemala -- some of them rescuers who had come to save people already trapped by a wall of mud.
In the village of Nahuala, about 200 rescue workers searched through mud and rocks for bodies on Sunday after two landslides in the same spot killed at least 20 people along a highway leading northwest of the capital toward Mexico. Another slide closer to Guatemala City killed at least 12.
A slide Saturday afternoon had trapped vehicles at kilometer 171 of the Inter-American highway, and some of the people who came to rescue them were themselves caught by a second slide, officials reported.
"Under the earth there is a bus that carried we don't know how many people, and there are those who tried to help the victims of the first slide," regional fire department Maj. Otto Mazariegos said.
Rescue crews have recovered 20 bodies from that site, said fire department spokesman Jose Rodriguez. He said at least 60 people are missing.
A few hours earlier, a landslide at kilometer marker 81 of the same highway partially buried a bus, killing 12 people.
On Sunday, Colom visited the area of the mudslides and said that Monday will be declared a national day of mourning. He asked local officials to determine the actual number of missing.
Speaking a day earlier, even before news of the second highway slide was known, Colom said, "It is a tragic day. Today alone 18 people have died, 12 buried by a hill when the traveled in a bus." Four children and two adults died in slides elsewhere, he said.
The president told officials to close the highway for fear of more slides.
"There are several hillsides that are loose and could fall. So we ask the population to not go out, to avoid moving along the highways," he said -- not long before new slides took more lives.
Heavy rains from Tropical Depression 11-E have pelted Guatemala for days, unleashing deadly mudslides in several areas, cutting highways and forcing officials to evacuate thousands of people.