A huge mudslide engulfed dozens of homes in Guatemala's Maya Indian highlands, killing 40 people as rains and flash floods from Hurricane Stan devastated Central America and southern Mexico.
The tragedy struck two indigenous hamlets in the municipality of Santiago Atitlan, a popular destination for US and European tourists, injuring some 300 people, local government officials said on Thursday.
With the new victims, 216 people have been killed in floods and mudslides in Central America and southern Mexico in the last few days following Hurricane Stan.
Benedicto Giron, a spokesman for the civil protection agency, said he did not know how many people were missing in the landslide, but rescue workers told Guatemalan radio that hundreds might be unaccounted for.
Roads blocked by mud, rocks and tree trunks made it tough for rescue workers to reach the area, in the department of Solola. Helicopters were grounded due to thick fog.
"We are trying to get help to these people, but the weather has not improved in that region where it is still raining," Giron told a radio station. "We are going to send our support forces to Solola."
Santiago Atitlan sits on Lake Atitlan, a collapsed volcanic cone filled with turquoise water.
Rain-sodden hills collapsed throughout the region, burying mostly poor peasants. Many of the victims lived in flimsy wooden and tin shacks.
As floodwaters blocked rescue efforts across Central America, mourning Mayan villagers solemnly laid out the dead.
"I have nothing, the water took everything," said Basilio Garcia, weeping beside the body of his 10-year-old grand-daughter in a fire station in Tecpan, west of Guatemala City.
Corpses laid out
Six corpses were laid out on the floor and surrounded by mourning townspeople in traditional dress.
Garcia saved his daughter from two mudslides that engulfed more than 30 homes in their nearby hamlet on Wednesday, but his grand-daughter was killed and three other family members were still missing.
An unknown number of foreigners were trapped at the Guatemalan resort of Panajachel, also on Lake Atitlan.
"The area was cut off by mudslides. We understand there are a good number of tourists there," Defence Minister Carlos Aldana said at an airfield in Guatemala City.
Few rescue workers had been able to reach the area, however, and communication was still cut off.
Guatemala confirmed 124 deaths and said the toll would surely rise. There were at least 65 dead in El Salvador, 13 in Mexico, 10 in Nicaragua and four in Honduras.
Source: China Daily