Rescue efforts suspended for landslide survivors

Officials called off rescue efforts two days ago after a hillside situated on the outskirts of Guatemala City collapsed two weeks ago. Hundreds of families were buried alive, killing at least 280 people. About 70 people remain unaccounted for, in the El Cambray 2 neighborhood.

Ernesto Lopez a John Brown University, alumnus who graduated in 2015 and lives in Guatemala where he is completing his master’s degree in engineering, said that there have been many natural disasters in the history of Guatemala such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but none of those disasters have cost as many lives as the landslide in El Cambray 2.

“Survivors of the landslide would be miracles,” Lopez said. “I think that rescue workers are looking for bodies instead of survivors.”

Guatemalan sophomore engineering student, Oscar Ramirez, said that the government and the rescue workers acted very slowly while trying to find people, decreasing the possibility of finding survivors.

“The government could have avoided this tragedy,” Ramirez said. “First of all, it shouldn’t have allowed people to construct there, and second they should have acted quickly following to the protocol for rescue people.”

The National Commission for the Reduction of Disasters (Conred) warned back in 2009 that the El Cambray 2 area was at risk of collapse, according to the BBC. The Commission has extended an evacuation notice to several families, forcing nearly 500 people to live in temporary shelters.

Communication director of Guatemala, Manuel Pocasangre, said in an interview with Los Angeles Times that people were conscious about the risk of living in the area. However, residents have denied this, saying they were not aware of the risks.

Conred urged residents living on unstable land around the collapse to move. It estimates that half a million Guatemalans may live in the unstable hillsides. Jorge de Leon, human rights prosecutor, said that if families do not evacuate the place, he intends to seek a court order.

Ramirez said that the government should relocate survivors to safe places because they are homeless now. Current plans exist to construct a housing project nearby that will house the displaced families, with $2.6 million approved for the project, according to the BBC.

A school building in Santa Catarina Pinula is currently being used as a shelter for the hundreds of survivors who are homeless.

The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office will investigate the people who were responsible for authorizing construction in a dangerous area and allowing residents to live in such conditions.

Lopez said that Conred should punish the people responsible because they did not take measures to ensure the wellbeing of the residents in the area. He also said that the government needs to improve the way it responds to this type of disaster in an effective way.