Few victims of Guatemalan landslide found

The search for more than 100 victims has been hampered by perilous conditions and the remoteness of the scene.

A partially buried lorry
A partially buried lorry

Rescuers have recovered only a handful out of more than 100 people believed to be buried in the central Guatemalan community of Queja, days after a landslide buried half the town.

The location is so remote and the conditions so perilous that Queja could become the latest in a string of Guatemalan disaster sites that become the final resting places of their victims.

On Monday, the Guatemalan government said a total of 44 deaths had been confirmed and 99 people were still missing in floods and landslides across the country.

Guatemala Tropical Weather
A member of a search and rescue team scans the scene at Queja (Esteban Biba/Pool Photo/AP)

President Alejandro Giammattei said he would ask the US government to grant “temporary protected status” to Guatemalans living in the United States because of the damages from Tropical Storm Eta. An estimated 21,000 homes were damaged by the storm.

Eta’s torrential rains wrought their worst damage early last Thursday afternoon as many residents in Queja, a farming town of about 1,200 Poqomchi Mayas, ate lunch.

The mountainside above them gave way, sweeping wooden and tin-roofed homes down a mountainside and burying them under many feet of orange mud and debris.

Guatemala Tropical Weather
A rescue dog and his handler search for survivors (Esteban Biba/Pool/AP)

It had been raining heavily for days as Eta, then a tropical depression, passed. Emilio Caal, a farmer who survived the slide, said 40 members of his family were missing.

It took a day just for rescuers to reach the scene because other landslides blocked highways. Supplies for survivors had to be flown in by helicopter.

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