NEJAPA, El Salvador (AP) — At least nine people were killed and 35 were missing after a landslide during torrential rains in El Salvador, civil defense officials said Friday.
The slide occurred Thursday night when earth from the upper part of the San Salvador volcano was set in motion, sweeping up trees and homes along a nearly 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) course some 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of the capital.
Local resident Roxana Ruíz came to the search area looking for news of her cousin; she later learned her body had been found.
“Three of my relatives died,” Ruíz said. “My cousin, her husband, and their child. They were buried, but now they found them.”
Interior Minister Mario Durán said “this morning we confirmed the deaths of two adult women, a girl, three adult men and a boy, and a few minutes ago we found a man and a woman.”
Durán said trained dogs were aiding in the search. He said that many of the 35 missing people may have fled and taken refuge with relatives, noting “we hope this figure will decrease,” but said the search will continue.
“Some people crawled out of the rubble and mud, and they have joined the effort to rescue their relatives and friends,” Durán said. “The families in this area have suffered a tragic situation.”
Civil Defense Director William Hernández said “according to preliminary data, residents tell us that some 40 homes have been destroyed,” adding that dozens of people were moved from the area to a church.
A total of 135 homes were damaged or destroyed by the landslide.
Housing Minister Michelle Sol promised to erect replacement housing for affected families, noting “we have found two lots where we can build housing for the victims. We are going to start the paperwork soon to offer these families help.”
President Nayib Bukele mobilized the army to help in the search and rescue operation.
“We believe that we can find people alive and we are not going to rest,” said Interior Minister Mario Durán. Speaking from the site, Durán said that some managed to escape the flow of mud and joined the search for family and friends.