At least 300 people were still missing in a mudslide on the outskirts of Guatemala City, after rescuers pulled more bodies from the muck and rumble Sunday.
The death toll reached 107 with the recovering of the remains of more than 20 more victims Sunday, before rescue work was halted due to continuing rain, which raised the risk of further mudslides.
Authorities fear the toll from Friday’s disaster will soar over time. Finding survivors becomes highly unlikely within 72 hours after a mudslide, though Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado ordered continued rescue efforts as soon as conditions allow.
“May God have mercy on the dead, grant healing to the injured, comfort loved ones and give the rescue workers strength,” he said on Twitter.
Around 1,800 rescuers and volunteers have been at work in the residential area of Santa Carina Pinula, where the mudslide struck early Friday after days of rain.
Witnesses said the steep hillside gave way and slid onto about 125 houses, inhabited mostly by poor families.
Pope Francis prayed for victims of the disaster in front of a crowd of thousands on St Peter’s Square in Rome.
“We are close to the severely affected population, also with concrete solidarity,” the pontiff said.
Some buildings lie under as much as 20 metres of soil, fire department chief Fritz Garcia-Gallont said, according to the newspaper Prensa Libre.
The city administration has set up emergency accommodation for those affected by the mudslide.
Residents quoted by the Prensa Libre newspaper said authorities had never warned them of any danger.
About 300,000 people living around Guatemala City inhabit an area susceptible to mudslides, according to disaster protection officials.