Guatemala City: At least 16 people were killed and about 600 missing following a landslide that damaged some 125 homes on the outskirts of the Guatemalan capital, officials said Friday.
The landslide occurred late Thursday following heavy rains in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula and small village of El Cambray II, 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Guatemala City.
"Sadly, the figure of recovered bodies is at 16," Alejandro Maldonado, head of the government's national coordinating agency for disaster reduction (CONRAD) said Friday.
Maldonado, the son of Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado, warned however that the death toll could rise as rescue efforts continue.
He said that at least three children were among the dead.
Dozens of rescue workers, police, soldiers and neighbors clawed away at the mud and debris searching for survivors all day Friday. Thirty-four people had been pulled from the mud and debris, and families reported receiving text messages from people they believed to still be trapped.
Maldonado said that the estimate of 600 missing is based on the number of homes destroyed by the landslide.
Officials said the impact of the heavy rain was exacerbated by a nearby river, and that municipal authorities had recommended the community relocate last year.
Eight people had already died in previous weather-related events tied to Guatemala's rainy season, which lasts from May to November, according to government data.
Last year's rainy season was tied to 29 deaths and damage to more than 9,000 homes.