Tragedy Strikes Guatemala City as Landslide Claims Six Lives and Leaves Many Missing
Guatemala City was hit by intense rains on Monday, resulting in a devastating landslide caused by the flooding of the El Naranjo River. The incident claimed the lives of six people and left at least 13 others missing, including several minors. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) confirmed the number of fatalities, which includes a 5-year-old girl who was found buried under debris and mud.
The landslide engulfed six homes, where six families resided. The incident occurred in the early hours of the morning, and firefighters immediately launched a search and rescue operation. Tragically, the search has yet to yield any survivors.
Images released by relief forces show a large expanse of land littered with household items along the riverbanks. In response to the emergency, the army has set up a command post at the site to coordinate rescue efforts.
Guatemala experiences a rainy season from May to November, during which landslides and other weather-related incidents are common. The lack of housing control and poor living conditions often force vulnerable families to settle in high-risk areas. This precarious situation contributes to the high number of incidents during the rainy season.
So far this year, there have been 805 incidents related to the rainy season, resulting in the deaths of 32 individuals and leaving another 16 missing. Over 2.1 million people have been affected by the adverse weather conditions.
The affected settlement, Dios Es Fiel, is located below the El Naranjo bridge, which spans the river. Many disadvantaged inhabitants of the capital discharge their sewage into the overflowing river, despite authorities’ prohibition. As a result, the force of the floodwater carried stones, dirt, and debris, causing significant damage to the area.
Residents of the affected settlement, such as Esaú González, expressed their shock and devastation at losing everything due to the power of the floodwater. González highlighted the absence of a decent housing policy in Guatemala as a contributing factor to families living in high-risk areas.
The search and recovery efforts continue, as authorities locate and provide a proper burial for the missing residents. However, the affected residents remain uncertain about their future, fearing the possibility of being relocated due to safety concerns.
Guatemala, a country where poverty affects 59% of the population, faces a housing deficit of approximately two million homes, according to data from the Guatemalan Chamber of Construction and the National Association of Home Builders. The dire living conditions force thousands of citizens to build their homes in dangerous locations, such as on the slopes of ravines and in flood-prone areas.
The tragic landslide in Guatemala City serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for proper housing policies and measures to protect vulnerable communities from natural disasters. The government and relevant authorities must work together to ensure the safety and well-being of all citizens, particularly those living in high-risk areas.