The death toll from the calamitous storm Eta in Central America has increased as the Guatemalan military reached a remote mountain village where torrential rains caused mudslides that killed an estimated 100 people.
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, Guatemalan army spokesman Ruben Tellez said.
The area around Queja appeared to be the site of a huge landslide on a road pass a decade ago, which killed dozens, Tellez said.
"Now with all this phenomenon it collapsed again," he added.
Photos of the Queja landslide showed a lengthy strip of brown mud peeled from the lush green hillside.
‘Catastrophic flooding’ to continue
A video shared by the army showed soldiers trying to get to Queja having to haul themselves through a morass of mud with the aid of a guide rope.
Footage from another part of Guatemala showed boats ferrying villagers in flooded regions and rescue workers carrying children on their backs, wading through water up to their hips.
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 (local time) 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.
‘Worst storm in decades’
In Honduras, about 16,000 people have been rescued in the northern Valle Sula region, authorities said. More than 50,00 were evacuated in Guatemala, officials said.
Eta has wrought chaos since ploughing into Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday (local time) with winds of 240km/h. It weakened to a tropical depression inland but unleashed torrents of rain on regions of Honduras and Guatemala.
"This is the worst storm Honduras has seen in decades. The damage will undoubtedly be significant," said Mark Connolly, UNICEF Representative in Honduras, who estimated about 1.5 million children there will be impacted by Eta.
Bad weather is hampering rescue efforts.
At least 23 people have been killed and two are missing in Honduras, the government said on Friday (local time).
High winds and heavy rain have damaged thousands of homes in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica, forcing people to take cover in shelters.
Two miners were reported killed in Nicaragua, while in southern Costa Rica, a landslide killed two people in a house, a Costa Rican woman and an American man. Five others, including three children, died in flooding near the Costa Rican border in Panama's Chiriqui province, authorities said.
On Friday evening, Eta was off Belize's coast in the Caribbean, churning towards Cuba and Florida, the NHC said.
But remnants of the weather system will continue to hammer parts of Central America with flooding, it added.
Flash flooding was also possible across Jamaica, southeast Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Cuba.
At least 200 dead in Mexico
At least 19 people have died and 900 homes damaged in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, bringing the estimated death toll in Mexico and Central America due to heavy rains to about 200, authorities said on Friday.
Rains over the past few days have triggered landslides, including 13 that blocked roads, and the overflow of five rivers, the Chiapas civil protection agency said.
Ten bodies were found in a river which goes through the community of Kaomtealhucum II in Chenalho in central Chiapas. The victims had reportedly been swept away by the current some kilometres upstream.
The other nine, among them three children, died in three separate incidents in other communities.
The rains currently hammering southern Mexico are the result of a cold front and tropical depression Eta, which has caused an estimated 180 deaths in Central America.
In Guatemala, some 150 people are believed to have died, the majority in an avalanche, though the toll has not been confirmed, President Alejandro Giammattei said.
There were also around 20 deaths recorded in Honduras, five in Panama, two in Costa Rica and two in Nicaragua.
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