This was the scene in Guatemala yesterday after a 200ft deep sink hole swallowed up a three-storey building. Check the pictures here:
The enormous crater appeared in the Central American country’s capital, Guatemala City, as it was being ravaged by torrential rain and mudslides during Tropical Storm Agatha.
Agatha, the first named storm of the 2010 Pacific season, slammed into Guatemala and neighbouring El Salvador at the weekend, dumping more than three feet of rain in the region.
The enormous crater appeared while the city was being ravaged with high winds, torrential rain and deadly mudslides. Witnesses claim at least one man was in the three-storey building when it was swallowed up at a downtown intersection, and others remain missing.
Agatha has killed at least 146 people across Central America, and has sparked fears for the economies of Guatemala and El Salvador – as there has been widespread damage to the coffee crop in both countries.
‘I’ve got no one to help me. I watched the water take everything,’ said Carlota Ramos in the town of Amatitlan near the Guatemalan capital, crying into her hands outside her brick house almost completely swamped by mud.
As the sun came out, exhausted rescue workers hauled away stones and tree trunks from crushed houses as they fought to reach wounded people and find dozens still missing.
‘We just have shovels and picks. We don’t have any machinery to dig,’ said firefighter Mario Cruz, who had been working almost nonstop since Friday night.
At least 123 people have died in Guatemala, and 59 others are missing, according to the government. Nine people were killed in El Salvador and 14 in Honduras, including a woman who was electrocuted as she was helped from her flooded home.
Helicopters ferried tents and medical supplies to remote towns on Guatemala’s Pacific coast and the first foreign aid began to flow in on Monday.
The U.S. government donated $113,000 to pay for emergency supplies and to charter private helicopters to assist in the relief effort. The Guatemalan government is expected to formally appeal for aid today.
More than 94,000 people have been evacuated from the capital.
Sink holes can appear suddenly but are thousands of years in the making, geologists said.
The gaping holes are usually caused by rainwater gradually eating away at porous rock such as limestone below the surface, weakening it, and creating a honeycomb of caverns and caves which can become packed with mud. Floodwater may have flushed away that mud – leading everything above it to collapse.
The coffee crop in Guatemala and El Salvador is now at risk from a destructive fungus in the wake of the storm, but mudslides and collapsed bridges have made it hard to assess the damage.
Guatemalan officials have warned the flooding from Agatha could be worsened by ash from the Pacaya volcano blocking drains.
Last Thursday’s eruption forced the closure of Guatemala City’s international airport. Ash again covered the tarmac yesterday, delaying plans to reopen the facility, aviation officials said.
Source: Mail Foreign Service