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Landslide Buries Town in Guatemala: 26 Dead and 600 Feared Missing

Authorities say 125 houses were buried when a hillside loosened by heavy rain collapsed on the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, just outside Guatemala City.
October 4, 2015, 1:40am
By Saul Martinez

As many as 600 people could be missing and at least 26 are dead after a hillside loosened by heavy rain tumbled onto a town on the outskirts of Guatemala City, prompting a desperate search for survivors on Friday.

The landslide happened on Thursday night, sending earth and trees crashing on top of the town of Santa Catarina Pinula that lies in a deep ravine on the southeastern flank of the Guatemalan capital.

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Many of the missing were feared to have been buried alive in their houses when the disaster struck while they were in bed.

The head of Guatemala's disaster agency, Alejandro Maldonado, told a press conference on Friday at least nine bodies had been recovered. The death toll was raised to 26 later on Friday evening. Maldonado said the landslide demolished 125 homes, and that there could be 600 people missing.

Defense Minister William Mancilla said that over 600 people were working on the rescue effort searching for signs of life and removing bodies from the mud, collapsed buildings, and mangled furniture.

"There are people still alive," Mancilla told reporters. "We will work 24 hours a day."

Marta Guitz, 37, told the Reuters that she had returned from work on Friday to find her house buried and was unable to reach Dany, her 17-year-old son, who she believed was inside.

"My husband is there now shoveling through soil to find our son," the domestic worker said as tears welled.

Melina Hidalgo, 35, said she was washing clothes when she heard a large crash and the lights went out.

"I feel like I've lost my loved ones because all my neighbors died," she said

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