7 Sep 2010

Searchers for mudslide victims forced to stop

8:01 pm on 7 September 2010

Emergency teams in Guatemala have halted effort to find bodies at the site of the most serious in a series of mudslides.

New rains have made it too dangerous to continue the search for at least 15 missing people.

At least 45 have died in slides across the country following torrential rains. More than 11,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes and thousands more remain at risk from further flooding and landslides.

A massive mudslide engulfed scores of people in Nahuala on Sunday while they were trying to find others caught in an earlier landslide.

The mud crashed onto the Inter-American Highway northwest of Guatemala City as the crowd tried to dig out five vehicles and a bus. At least 24 people have been pulled out dead so far.

'A national tragedy' - President

Guatemala's civil defence director Sergio Cabanas, has told the BBC that they have no hopes anyone may be pulled out alive.

"We have given up for dead all those trapped in the mud," he says.

President Alvaro Colom has called on his country's congress to free up emergency funds for tackling what he has called a "national tragedy".

Parts of the country have had the heaviest rainfall for half a century, according to Guatemala's national meteorological institute.