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Wednesday, Sep 22, 2021

International Buzz: Catastrophic landslide in Guatemala raises death toll over weekend

What’s the skinny?

Last Thursday, hundreds were buried in a disastrous landslide in the village of El Cambray Dos, near Guatemala’s capitol city. Around midnight, Thursday night, a hillside gave out following days of rainfall in the area. It is estimated that somewhere around 100 homes had been buried in the wake of the destruction. Over the weekend, about 1,000 volunteer and emergency rescue workers have been tirelessly searching for survivors and uncovering lost homes Since Thursday, the death toll has risen to 131 total dead and an estimate of 300 people are still missing.

Give me the rundown:

  • Guatemala, as a wet and mountainous country, has a history of reoccurring landslides, but Thursday’s event has been one of the worst seen in recent times.

  • According to a BBC interview, Alejandro Maldonado, the head of the Guatemalan disaster agency explained that the community had been advised that the area was unsafe and that homes should have been relocated by local authorities.

  • Although both Mexico and the United States have offered to send in emergency response teams, Guatemalan officials have asked both parties to standby; while the search-and-rescue mission unfolded over the weekend.

  • Julio Sanchez, spokesman for Guatemala’s volunteer firefighters, stated that the Guatemalan government would adhere to the internationally accepted search-and-rescue protocols for 72 hours following the disaster. Although rescue operations have since elapsed the 72-hour mark, response teams are prepared to continue procedures as believed necessary.

  • Over the weekend, funerals have begun taking place amongst community members as bodies are recovered from the rubble.

What is the bottom line?

Guatemala is a mountainous Central American country with an annual precipitation rate of about 79 inches per year. In perspective, the United States only receives approximately 28 inches per year. Located between both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the Guatemala region is vulnerable to severe hurricanes and tropical storms. With this, reoccurring landslides are some of the country’s leading natural disasters. Although proper precautionary measures are often taken and adequate rescue operations are made, Guatemala is consistently bombarded with similar tragedies due to its geographic location. Rural highland communities like El Cambray Dos are some of the most vulnerable to these types of catastrophes and will have to remain prepared for possible future episodes.


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