Mudslide death toll climbs to 33 in Guatemala
The death toll from a mudslide in northern Guatemala rose to at least 33 people Monday, and disaster prevention officials feared the death toll could further climb, reported dpa .
The avalanche, which happened Sunday, covered more than a 1- kilometre stretch of a rural road that is under construction between the towns of San Cristobal and Chicaman in the western part of Alta Verapaz department, 200 kilometres from Guatemala City.
The authorities were evaluating whether the mudslide was linked to tectonic plate movement or to faults in the road-building works. There was no heavy rainfall of the type that often causes mudslides across Latin America.
At least 15 people were rescued from the site alive, although injured.
"Witnesses said approximately 140 people were in the area when the mudslide occurred," Guatemalan Vice-President Rafael Espada said.
Although the road had not yet been opened for vehicle traffic, locals used it as a footpath.
Fears of further avalanches prompted rescue officials to call off the search for more bodies several times Sunday and Monday. Eyewitnesses told Guatemalan media that the ground continued to shake and that smaller mudslides were frequent.
A similar mudslide occurred in the same area two weeks earlier, leaving two people confirmed dead and three others missing. Locals had been warned not to walk along the stretch of the road, and experts were to evaluate the instability of the soil.
Officials had initially spoken of 22 dead.
The Guatemalan government deployed a technical commission in the area - headed by Communications Minister Luis Alejos - in an effort to determine the causes of the tragedy.