As Hurricane Mitch moves away from Central America towards Mexico, aid workers are left with the gruesome task of searching for more bodies in the chaotic aftermath.
The powerful storm has killed some eight-thousand people across the region, in one of Central America’s worst natural disasters on record.
The European Union, United States and Cuba have responded to the crisis with pledges of more than 11 (m) million U-S dollars in aid.
In Nicaragua, hundreds upon hundreds of bodies are buried in mud that cascaded down Casitas volcano, some with their hair and limbs entangled in the sugar cane stalks.
The tragedy here occurred on Friday morning following pounding rains brought by Hurricane Mitch.
Part of the volcano’s crater collapsed and the lake inside formed a deluge down the slope.
Now, the stench of death crops up every few hundred yards where a more bodies lies.
The mayor of the largest city near the disaster area said one thousand and 950 bodies had already been recovered in villages below the volcano.
Other officials gave lower, but still ghastly calculations of the death toll here – the Red Cross said 12-hundred and 50, while the president’s office said one thousand and 338.
One official said rescue workers burying and burning bodies to prevent the spread of disease had run across survivors in the hills, and had informed the military.
But she didn’t know if soldiers had gone back to get them.
“In the sector of Virgin we have 400 bodies waiting to be buried. We need to be able to open the road, because at this point we can’t get through to recuperate the bodies.”
SUPER CAPTION: Felicita Zeledon, Mayor of Posoltega
A local Red Cross said officials did not have the equipment to reach survivors in the hills.
Nicaragua’s Health Ministry said it was dispatching medical brigades to help recover and bury bodies and to fumigate the region.
The government has urged people living near Casitas and eight other nearby volcanoes to evacuate their homes for fear of new mudslides.
More heavy rains have been falling in recent days.
The disaster has left thousands homeless and hungry – (M) millions of people have fled their homes.
Many are left wandering in the streets with the few belongings they managed to salvage.
The damage bill is estimated to be in the (M) millions of dollars.
Mitch has also wreaked havoc elsewhere in Central America.
In Guatemala, it’s estimated millions (m) of dollars U-S worth of damage to buildings and crops has been caused.
And there are reports of 157 deaths.
Around 50-thousand others have been forced to flee their homes.
The death and destruction has led to calls for urgent government help from the Guatemalan people.
SOUNDBITE: (Spanish) Elena Carrillo, Resident
“We were already high up but yes, we were incredibly surprised because there were so many dead people – there were so many collapses buildings and so much damage. But we really wanted the president to help all the poor people because look – here we all are
in this ravine where no-one can visit us. And until now it has been only you and a few others who have helped us move from here.”
SUPER CAPTION: Elena Carrillo,Villager
Aid workers are continuing to search remote areas while in the capital, Guatemala City, thousands are wandering homeless and hungry.
Officials expect the death toll to climb further as rescue teams reach more remote areas.
It’s clearly a daunting task.
“We have evacuated at this point 46-thousand people approximately. Only in the city 2050 people have been evacuated.”
SUPER CAPTION: Alvaro Arzu, President of Guatemala
In Honduras, rescue workers are also continuing their search for survivors as the death toll steadily rises.
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