PATULUL, Guatemala – There was a violent shudder and a roar, then the side of a volcano gave way, burying two villages under a rush of mud and floodwaters.
Residents said at least 50 people were killed in the landslide in Solola, (search) a town close to the popular tourist destination of Lake Atitlan (search), that remained cut off from the outside world. It was the deadliest of the floods that have killed 250 people in Central America (search) and southern Mexico.
"We've been pulling bodies out for two days and we've found 50 in an area encompassing 1,075 square feet, Lucas Ajpus, a former firefighter coordinating rescue efforts, said via cell phone from Santiago Atitlan, near where the mudslide occurred.
"There's still a lot to be done because two towns have disappeared completely," he said.
Ajpus said police and soldiers had been unable to get to the area 60 miles west of the capital, Guatemala City.
"We need food, clothing, medicine and help," he said.
The mudslide began Wednesday morning, and while most residents were able to evacuate, two villages were buried.
"You look at these people who have very little and they've lost everything," said 32-year-old Stephanie Jolluck, a businesswoman from Atlanta who has traveled to Guatemala for work since 1999.
Reached by phone in Panajachel, on the banks of Lake Atitlan, Jolluck fought back tears as she said rivers that were "six feet wide turned to 50 feet wide."
"Water is running out, food is running out and looters are coming now," she said.
In Pathulul, 30 miles away from Santiago Atitlan and as close to the landslide site as a reporter could get, creeks that normally stream down from the highlands had turned into raging rivers, cluttered with rocks, branches and chunks of debris.
Along the country's Pacific coast, a river broke from its banks, creating a new outlet to the sea and killing at least 20 people from a small, seaside village, the navy said.
It was still raining across most of southern Mexico and Central America, bringing the threat of more flooding.
In all, heavy rains caused floods in more than 200 Guatemalan communities and killed 154 people. Another 31,450 were forced to flee their homes.
The death toll stood at 65 in neighboring El Salvador and officials said nearly 54,000 people there had been evacuated.
The 250 people killed in the region included 14 earlier this week in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica. An additional death was reported Thursday in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and three new fatalities were confirmed in Veracruz state, raising Mexico's total killed to 17.
In Chicomuselo, in Mexico's Chiapas state, hundreds of people in seven communities were left homeless and searching for food, some crossing the border from Guatemala to seek help.
Guatemalan Mercedes Garcia said she escaped to Chiapas with her daughter, but was separated from her husband and three other children.
"I beg God that my family is alive in Guatemala," she said. "My house and everything else that was lost, that doesn't matter."
More than 25,000 people left homeless by flooding were living in 103 shelters statewide, and 55 bridges had been destroyed, according to Chiapas authorities.
In the larger Mexico-Guatemala border city of Tapachula, authorities estimated that 8,000 homes had been destroyed. Power and phone service had yet to be restored, and efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the city were complicated by new downpours.
Lines of residents waiting in the rain to buy natural gas snaked through major streets and essentials had begun to disappear from supermarket shelves.
Flooding in Mexico was exacerbated by Hurricane Stan, which came ashore along that country's Gulf Coast early Tuesday. Reynaldo Escobar, interior secretary for Veracruz, which took a direct hit from the hurricane, said Thursday night that officials there had doubled their death toll to six.
Authorities in Oaxaca, which borders Chiapas, raised their state's number killed to three. Officials said 200 communities were cut off from surrounding areas. Some 80,000 people had been evacuated and 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed across Oaxaca.
Mexican President Vicente Fox visited a shelter in the hard-hit town of Tuxtepec and promised that aid was on the way. Mexico also airlifted food and emergency supplies to El Salvador.
The United States said it was donating $100,000 in household items to Mexico and would also offer humanitarian aid to Guatemala and other Central American countries. Mexican troops recently returned from several weeks of helping U.S. officials clean up after Hurricane Katrina.