Rescue operations restarted early Saturday in Santa Catarina Pinula on Guatemala City’s southeastern flank, after authorities said Friday that as many as 600 people were unaccounted after Thursday night’s catastrophic rainfall and landslide in Central America’s worst natural disaster in years. It is feared Guatemalans are only the first to fall in the predicted powerhouse El Nino due to global warming.
“Everything went black, because the lights went out,” 28-year-old homemaker Dulce del Carmen Lavarenzo Pu said. “Ash and dust were falling, so we left the house. You couldn’t see anything.”
Pu said she’d just returned home from church Thursday evening when she felt the ground shake and she heard a terrible noise. A wave of mud slid from the nearby mountainside, burying everything only 150 feet from her house.
At least 30 people have died, although officials fear hundreds more are trapped and that the landslide one of the worst natural disasters to hit Central America in recent years. The entire Pacific Coast has been under the threat of a powerhouse El Nino’s wrath.
More than 500 rescue workers, police, soldiers and desperate residents clawed down through debris with picks and shovels, searching for survivors all day yesterday and into late evening, before suspending the hunt for the night. Families reported receiving text messages from people they believed were still trapped, over 24 hours after the landslide struck the village of El Cambray II, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula.
At the search site early Saturday, a long whistle sounded and workers stopped and listened for any sign of life under the mud and debris.
“We’re from the rescue unit,” one worker announced. “If there is someone there, please make some noise or yell.”
No response was heard. The digging continued.
Authorities said the 600 people missing reported estimate is based on the 125 homes that Thursday’s landslide destroyed or damaged after heavy rain. The affected area is about 15 kilometers (10 miles) east of the capital Guatemala City.
The tragedy hit Guatemala after weeks of political turmoil in preparations to elect a new president. Outgoing president Otto Perez was forced to stand down and was arrested on corruption charges last month.
In August, Dupré reported on the threat of global warming coupled with El Nino creating historic rain-related devastation:
Pacific Ocean temperatures rising three to six degrees warmer than average due to global warming have spurred a Super El Nino Watch to be issued, with anticipated historic rain-related devastation to develop, such as floods and landslides. Federal climate experts have become increasingly confident that a strong El Nino will drench drought-stricken California and northern Mexico this winter, possibly starting as soon as October, bringing with it deep concerns about human rights to health and safety, survival.
Residents in flood prone zones along the Pacific Coast have been urged to stock sandbags. It has been predicted that demand will kick in harder this month and in November when Fall/Winter/Spring El Nino kicks in harder.