Guatemalan mudslides push storm Eta death toll near 150

WION Web Team
New York, New York, United States of America Published: Nov 07, 2020, 07:39 AM(IST)

Havoc wreaked by Hurricane Eta Photograph:( Reuters )

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Many of the dead were buried in their homes in the remote village of Queja in the central region of Alta Verapaz, where around 150 houses were swallowed by mudslides.

The death toll from Eta in Central America has leapt to over 100. On Friday, the Guatemalan military reached a remote mountain village where torrential rains caused mudslides that killed the estimated 100 people.

Many of the dead were buried in their homes in the remote village of Queja in the central region of Alta Verapaz, where around 150 houses were swallowed by mudslides.

The devastating weather front brought destruction from Panama to Honduras and Mexico, which between them have registered more than 50 flood-related deaths -- tally crossing 150.

It was not the first time disaster had struck the remote corner of Alta Verapaz. The area around Queja appeared to be the site of a huge landslide on a road pass a decade ago, which killed dozens

Photos of the Queja landslide showed a lengthy strip of brown mud peeled from the lush green hillside. A video shared by the army showed soldiers trying to get to Queja having to haul themselves through a morass of mud with the aid of a guide rope.

Footage from another part of Guatemala showed boats ferrying villagers in flooded regions and rescue workers carrying children on their backs, wading through water up to their hips.

The army said about 100 people are believed to have died in Queja alone, though searches for survivors continue.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei hinted the death toll could jump higher, with the number of dead and missing in Queja estimated at about 150.

One of the fiercest storms to hit Central America in years, Eta on Friday dumped more torrential rain across swathes of Central America and the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned "catastrophic flooding" in the region would continue.

Rescue operations across Honduras and Guatemala have been slowed by destroyed roads and bridges, forcing authorities to draft in the military and use helicopters and speedboats to rescue people stranded on top of their houses by flooding.

In Honduras, about 16,000 people were rescued in the northern Valle Sula region, authorities said. Over 5,000 people were evacuated in Guatemala, officials said.

Eta has wrought chaos since plowing into Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday with winds of 150 miles per hour (241 kph). It weakened to a tropical depression inland but unleashed torrents of rain on regions of Honduras and Guatemala.

Mark Connolly, UNICEF Representative in Honduras, has estimated about 1.5 million children there will be impacted by Eta.

Eta's devastation harked back to Hurricane Mitch, which killed some 10,000 people in Central America in 1998. Bad weather is hampering rescue efforts.

At least 23 people have been killed and two are missing in Honduras, the government said on Friday evening. Many people remained trapped on their roofs, the National Risk Management System (SINAGER) said.

High winds and heavy rain have damaged thousands of homes in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica, forcing people to take cover in shelters.

Two miners were reported killed in Nicaragua, while in southern Costa Rica, a landslide killed two people in a house, a Costa Rican woman and an American man. Eight others, including at least three children, died in flooding near the Costa Rican border in Panama's Chiriqui province, authorities said.

On Friday evening, Eta was off Belize's coast in the Caribbean, churning towards Cuba and Florida, the NHC said.

Flash flooding was also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Cuba.

(with inputs)

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