Latin America & Caribbean

Heavy rains devastate Guatemala

Guatemalan bus smashed by landslide surrounded by rescuers
Image caption Rescuers were able to dig 20 survivors out of the bus

A state of emergency has been declared in Guatemala, where days of heavy rain have caused widespread flooding and landslides.

At least 20 people have been killed, including at least 10 who died when a bus was engulfed by a mudslide.

President Alvaro Colom said the rains had undone all the reconstruction work completed since Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed 165 people in May.

He has asked congress to approve emergency funds for rebuilding.

Days of heavy rains have saturated Guatemala's mountainous terrain, causing hillsides to collapse suddenly and without warning.

Buried alive

The worst landslide buried a packed bus as it travelled on the main Inter-American highway, west of the capital Guatemala City.

At least 10 people were killed, and emergency workers had to dig through thick mud to rescue 20 others from the wreckage.

In the western region of Quetzaltenango, a family of four died when their home was buried by a mudslide.

At least four other deaths have been reported around the country. About 4,000 people have been evacuated from their houses, reports said.

More than 100km (65 miles) of the Inter-American highway has been closed to all traffic, and many other roads have been blocked.

A bridge that was replaced after being destroyed by Tropical Storm Agatha has again been smashed by floods, cutting the main route to the south-west of the country.

President Colom said the rains had "destroyed all the work that has been done in the last few weeks" and caused damage estimated at up to half a billion dollars (£330m).

He said he would also propose a special tax to help fund reconstruction.

Guatemala's national meteorological service forecast that the rains would continue for another 48 hours.

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