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Guatemalan mudslides push storm Eta’s death toll near 150

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. 

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. 

 

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