Disasters & Accidents

Over 100 feared trapped as Guatemala searches for victims of hurricane Eta

By Esteban Biba

San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala, Nov 7 (efe-epa).- Guatemala on Saturday continued the search for more than 100 people missing in a northern village, where around 150 houses were buried under landslides triggered by torrential rains caused by the cyclonic storm Eta.

The Central American country has reported 15 deaths due to the rains and 109 people missing, most of them in the village of Queja in the Alta Verapaz department (county), around 200 km north of capital Guatemala City.

Accessing the village, situated in the San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, has been difficult due to ground conditions deteriorating after the rain.

As per the latest update of the Guatemalan military, 95 people, including soldiers, firemen, and police officers, had been able to reach the spot of the tragedy.

“They are now carrying out search and rescue operations. They have reported that the weather continues to be forbidding (for air transport) and the terrain is still unstable during rescue work,” Ruben Tellez, the communication director for the armed forces, told reporters.

At least five dead bodies, including those of a woman and a child, have been recovered from the village so far.

Once the weather improves and the road to the village is unblocked, more rescue workers and media persons, including an EFE correspondent, expect to reach the area through the land route.

However, it was possible to carry out an aerial survey of the locality, and EFE was able to witness the destruction firsthand.

The deaths and disappearances in Guatemala caused by landslides in the departments of Alta Verapaz (north), but casualties were also reported from in Huehuetenango (northwest), Quiche (northwest), Quetzaltenango (west), and Guatemala (central).

According to reports on local media and social networks and government updates, hundreds of Guatemalans continue to remain cut off and trapped awaiting help in different parts of the country.

Civil protection authorities and military sources told reporters that a large number of residents in the departments of Izabal, Alta Verapaz, and Baja Verapaz had taken refuge from floods on the roofs of their houses and other high places.

President Alejandro Giammattei visited Coban, the departmental headquarter of Alta Verapaz, for a few hours on Saturday evening to survey the damage.

“I was in Izabal and it the tragedy of the people there affected me. I remain worried because the risk of landslides is still a real situation that cannot be ignored,” he told reporters.

In the morning, the president said at least 13,000 families had lost all their crops due to flooding, with the figure expected to rise over the next few days.

Civil protection authorities said that rains caused by Eta over the past week caused severe damage to at least 240 houses across the country, while 2,288 buildings received moderate damage and 10 bridges have been destroyed.

At least 13,153 people have been evacuated and 6,557 housed in state shelters after 321 rain-related incidents.

Eta made landfall as a powerful hurricane in Nicaragua on Tuesday and after battering Honduras and Guatemala, as a tropical depression finally left Central America on Friday. The storm will hit Cuba and Florida as a tropical storm over the weekend. EFE-EPA


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