Latin America & Caribbean

Rain halts search for Guatemala mudslide victims

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Media captionFunerals have begun for some of those who have died in the mudslides

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

New rains made it too dangerous to conitnue 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 on Sunday in Nahuala while they had been trying to search for others caught in an earlier landslide.

The mud crashed onto the Inter-American Highway north-west 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 following the double slide.

Teams have been using heavy machinery to clear the earth and debris, while Guatemala's civil defence director Sergio Cabanas told the BBC that they had no hopes that anyone may be pulled out alive.

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

Scores more landslides and floods have struck other areas of the country.

'National tragedy'

One man told the AP news agency his son had gone missing in Nahuala when they had joined the effort to look for survivors.

"My son, he was working with me - he was helping, out of solidarity. He was scraping the earth to the side with a hoe, I was with the shovel...but I lost him and I can't do anything about it," he said.

More rains are predicted in the days ahead.

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

On Sunday, he said that, in 24 hours, 189 different incidents had occurred "mainly in the regions of Suchitepequez, Retalhuleu, Escuintla and Solola".

The devastation was comparable to Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed 165 Guatemalans in May, he added.

Weeks of heavy rain have saturated Guatemala's mountainous terrain, causing hillsides to collapse suddenly.

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

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