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HEAVY RAINS DEVASTATE GUATEMALA

By NBF News
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A state of emergency has been declared in Guatemala, where days of heavy rain have caused widespread flooding and landslides.

At least 18 people have been killed, including at least 10 who died when a bus was engulfed by a mudslide.

President Alvaro Colom said the rains had undone all the reconstruction work completed since Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed 165 people in May.

He has asked congress to approve emergency funds for rebuilding.

Days of heavy rains have saturated Guatemala's mountainous terrain, causing hillsides to collapse suddenly and without warning.

Buried alive
The worst landslide buried a packed bus as it travelled on the main Inter-American highway, west of the capital Guatemala City.

At least ten people were killed, and emergency workers had to dig through thick mud to rescue 20 others from the wreckage.

In the western region of Quetzaltenango, a family of four died when their home was buried by a mudslide.

At least four other deaths have been reported around the country.

More than 100km (65 miles) of the Inter-American highway has been closed to all traffic, and many other roads have been blocked.

A bridge that was replaced after being destroyed by Tropical Storm Agatha has again been smashed by floods, cutting the main route to the southwest of the country.

President Colom said the rains had “destroyed all the work that has been done in the last few weeks” and caused damage estimated at up to half a billion dollars (£330m).

He said he would also propose a special tax to help fund reconstruction.

Guatemala's national meteorological service forecast that the rains would continue for another 48 hours.