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Guardian Unlimited


3 People Missing in Guatemala Sinkhole

Friday February 23, 2007 7:16 PM


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Associated Press Writer

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (AP) - A giant sinkhole swallowed several homes and at least one truck early Friday in Guatemala City, and officials said at least three people had been reported missing.

Hugo Hernandez, Guatemala's national disaster coordinator, said emergency officials couldn't attempt to rescue anyone overnight because the 330-foot-deep hole was very unstable. Loud noises and the smell of sewage rose from the hole, and the earth around it shook.

``I was in my house, and I started to hear booming and I felt the earth shaking, and then I realized that the homes had collapsed'' into the sinkhole, said Maria Rivas, who lives nearby.

Immediately after the sinkhole appeared before dawn, police patrolled the neighborhood, using megaphones to urge residents to stay in their homes.

They later evacuated 1,000 houses and moved the residents to temporary shelters in schools and a police building.

The director of Guatemala's Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology Institute, Eddie Sanchez, said the sinkhole was likely caused by a leaky sewer main and recent rains.