Guatemala calls off search at site of massive landslide

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The Guatemalan government on Tuesday called off the search for victims of a massive landslide set off by the rains of Hurricane Eta that was believed to have entombed more than 100 people.

Guatemala’s National Disaster Reduction Coordinator said it was suspending the search for bodies due to continued risks at the site in accordance with international protocols. Search teams had located eight victims before the effort was halted.

David de León, spokesman for the agency, said the area was very unstable and the soils saturated.

A mountainside above the community of Queja in Alta Verapaz thundered onto some 150 modest homes below on Thursday as the area was being drenched by what was then Tropical Depression Eta. It took a day just for rescuers to reach the slide. Roads approaching the site were blocked by numerous other landslides.

Rescuers had to hike for hours, sometimes through waist-deep mud, to arrive at Queja. Supplies were brought in by helicopter.

Guatemala has a grim history of victims of large landslides being left buried where they perished.

The government has reported 44 deaths related to Eta's passage. The country, like much of Central America, has suffered widespread flooding from the storm that entered Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Nov. 3 and continued hovering over the Caribbean Tuesday as a tropical storm.

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