Officials say at least 22 die in mudslides on Guatemala highway; scores missing

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mudslides kill at least 22 on Guatemala highway

GUATEMALA CITY — Several mudslides on a Guatemalan highway have killed at least 22 people, officials said Saturday, and scores more are missing.

The first slide near midday Saturday partially buried a bus under tons of mud at kilometer marker 81 on a highway leading north of the capital toward Mexico. Officials said at least 12 people died. That led President Alvaro Colom to declare a national emergency.

Colom told officials to close the highway for fear of more slides. But hours later, vehicles were trapped by another slide at kilometer 171, officials reported, and some of the people who came to rescue them were themselves caught by following slide.

Civil Defense director Sergio Cabanas said at least 10 people were killed — some in vehicles and some among people who came to rescue them. He said at least 60 people are missing.

Regional fire department Maj. Otto Mazariegos told reporters that some of the victims of the second slide were rescuers.

“We are told that there are 150 missing,” he said. “Under the earth there is a bus that carried we don’t know how many people, and there are those who tried to help the victims of the first slide.”

Heavy rains have pelted Guatemala for days, unleashing deadly mudslides in several areas and cutting highways.

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