Guatemala to build homes for mudslide victims

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People watch an area affected by a mudslide in Santa Catarina Pinula on 7 October, 2015Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The hillside collapsed late on Thursday 1 October, burying 125 homes under tonnes of mud

Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado has announced that his government will build homes for the survivors of a landslide which buried some 125 houses last week.

More than 200 people were killed when a hillside collapsed on a neighbourhood in Santa Catarina Pinula.

Hundreds more were left homeless.

President Maldonado said his government would be "directly in control" of building the homes and would not sub-contract the work.

Rising death toll

It is not yet clear where the new houses will be built, as the area where the mudslide hit has been declared uninhabitable.

An estimated 300 people are still missing presumed dead after the mudslide buried homes under tonnes of dirt in the El Cambray 2 neighbourhood,

The number of confirmed dead rose to 215 on Wednesday as more bodies were found.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The recovery of the bodies has been slow as some homes were buried 25m (82ft) deep in mud

"The whole government is committed to getting this done as soon as possible," President Maldonado said of the efforts to provide the more than 350 people still living in shelters with new homes.

Guatemala's Congress has approved $2.6m (£1.7m) in funds to help the victims.

Education Minister Ruben Alfonso Ramirez Enriquez said classes were still suspended in the local school as pupils had been affected "emotionally and psychologically" by the disaster.

The school building is currently being used as a shelter for those left homeless.

Perilous location

An official investigation is under way to determine why houses where built in El Cambray 2 even though Guatemala's National Disaster Reduction Commission (Conred) had warned as early as 2009 that the area was at risk of collapse.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
School has not yet resumed in the area, with many pupils traumatised by what happened

The middle-class neighbourhood was built at the bottom of a steep hillside next to a river.

Conred said its most recent warning came in November 2014, when it alerted local authorities to the fact that the river was eroding the base of the hill, making the hillside very unstable.

However, residents said they had not been made aware of the risks.