Guatemalan authorities abandoned efforts on Tuesday to recover bodies from a deadly landslide that killed hundreds of people, and blocked villagers' access to the site to prevent an outbreak of disease.
"We simply can't do it anymore," Santiago Atitlan Mayor Diego Esquina said, referring to efforts to recover more bodies from the nearby community of Panabaj, buried under a mudflow a half-mile (one kilometer) wide and as much as 15 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) thick. The bodies of the victims were decomposing rapidly and the hillside where the cadavers are trapped was still highly unstable, making the rescue efforts too risky, Esquina said.
Authorities also kept villagers 100 yards (90 meters) back from the site to prevent an outbreak of disease, he said. Shortly after the mudslide and before rescuers arrived, residents were digging for victims and possible survivors with their hands and whatever tools they could find, the AP reports.
Survivors of the past week of flooding and landslides that left more than 1,000 either dead or missing in Guatemala, remained in shelters or gathered in small groups to talk about what had happened and what they would do next. Guatemala was relying heavily on international aid to feed them. A.M.