The discovery of more than 130 more bodies pushed the number of dead and missing in mudslides linked to Hurricane Stan to more than 1,000, as Guatemala's Indian communities struggled Monday with the fact they must abandon the dead, give up traditional burial rites and declare many communities graveyards.
The first rescue teams reaching the isolated western township of Tacana, near the Mexico border, confirmed the death toll nationwide had risen to 652 with 384 missing. Mudflows remained dangerously unstable. Another 129 people were killed in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico after a week of deadly rains.
Mayan Indians faced reconciling the conflicting demands of tradition, which demands the recovery of bodies and decent burial, with the shifting fields of mud and rotting corpses, which threatened disease and injury.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum will travel to some of the hardest-hit villages, like Panabaj on the shores of Lake Atitlan, to hold consultations with Indian leaders on how to preserve traditional customs while keeping the living from being injured in attempts to recover the dead.
Indians leaders say they are exhausted by the days spent digging for victims since the Wednesday mudslides, and they are worried about diseases from the decomposing corpses.
Many of the missing will simply be declared dead, and the ground they rest in declared hallowed ground. About 160 bodies have been recovered in Panabaj and nearby towns, and most have been buried in mass graves. A.M.