At least 50 people have been killed by landslides in Guatemala after Storm Eta’s torrential rain and high winds battered the Central American country, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said around half the deaths were in a single town where a hillside collapse buried some 20 houses under thick mud.
Eta made landfall in neighbouring Nicaragua as a hurricane on Tuesday, it was later downgraded to a tropical storm, Mr Giammattei said a month’s worth of rain had fallen in less than half a day during an impromptu press conference on Thursday. Ongoing heavy rain has left rescue workers unable to reach one of the worst-affected areas, including the town of San Cristobal Verapaz, which is home to half of the reported casualties. “Right now, we’re trying to get there on foot because there’s no other way,” Mr Giammattei said.
Eta first hit Nicaragua as a Category Four hurricane with winds of 140mph (225km/h) and torrential rains, it then weakened into a tropical depression as it moved into neighbouring Honduras and later Guatemala. Across the Central American region, Eta is believed to have killed more than 70 people, the Reuters news agency reports, in Nicaragua, tens of thousands of people were evacuated to shelters before the hurricane struck. On the country’s north coast, two men were killed when a landslide buried the mine where they were working.
In neighbouring Honduras, a 13-year-old girl died in the city of San Pedro Sula when the wall of her home collapsed onto the bed where she slept, the government said around 500 Hondurans were rescued from their roofs on Thursday as water levels kept rising, while many more were likely still stranded, according to Reuters. Photos from storm-hit regions in Honduras and Guatemala showed people wading through flooded streets, while houses and cars were near submerged by floodwaters, in its latest advisory, the US National Hurricane Center said Eta is still causing heavy rains and life-threatening flooding over parts of Central America. The storm is expected to regain strength this weekend as it moves north-east towards Cuba and Florida.