Germany counts cost of floods as hopes of finding survivors fade

By Kirsti Knolle and Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) – A relief official dampened hopes on Wednesday of finding more survivors in the rubble of villages devastated by floods in western Germany, as a poll showed many Germans felt policymakers had not done enough to protect them.

More than 170 people died in last week’s flooding, Germany’s worst natural disaster in more than half a century, and thousands went missing.

“We are still looking for missing persons as we clear roads and pump water out of basements,” Sabine Lackner, deputy chief of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Any victims found now are likely to be dead, she said.

One woman in Insul, in the rural Eifel region, said people had emerged from their houses like ghosts last week to see whether their neighbors were alive. In the Ahrweiler district, of which Insul is part, 123 people died.

For immediate relief, the federal government will initially provide up to 200 million euros ($235.5 million) in emergency aid, and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said more funds can be made available if needed.

That will come on top of at least 250 million euros provided by the affected states to repair buildings and damaged local infrastructure and to help people in crisis situations.

Scholz said the government would contribute to the cost of rebuilding infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The full extent of the damage is not clear, but Scholz said that rebuilding after previous floods cost about 6 billion euros.

PUBLIC CRITICISM

The floods have dominated the political agenda before a national election in September and raised uncomfortable questions about why Europe’s richest economy was caught flat-footed.

Two-thirds of Germans believe that federal and regional policymakers should have done more to protect communities from flooding, a survey by the INSA institute for German mass-circulation paper Bild showed on Wednesday.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer, who faced calls from opposition politicians to resign over the high death toll, said there would be no shortage of money for reconstruction.

“That is why people pay taxes, so that they can receive help in situations like this. Not everything can be insured,” he told a news conference.

Insured losses from the floods may total 4 billion to 5 billion euros ($4.7-5.9 billion), said the GDV insurance industry association. Damage in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate is likely to exceed the 4.65 billion euros recorded after a deluge in August 2002, it said.

The estimate does not include losses from the southern German state of Bavaria and in Saxony in the east last weekend.

Only around 45% of homeowners in Germany have insurance that covers flood damage, according to the GDV, triggering a discussion about the need for compulsory insurance.

“As the time interval between heavy natural disasters gets shorter and shorter, one needs a debate about a protection scheme and how it could be designed,” Seehofer said.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio aid would include funds to help businesses such as restaurants or hair salons make up for lost revenue.

($1 = 0.8490 euros)

(Writing by Maria Sheahan, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Death toll in Miami condo collapse rises to 46

By Brad Brooks

SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) -Search and rescue workers on Wednesday recovered 10 more bodies from the rubble of an apartment block outside Miami that collapsed last month, bringing the death toll to 46, as hopes faded that any of the 94 people still unaccounted for would be found alive.

The effort to locate survivors of the Champlain Towers South building continued in warm, dry conditions with the threat from Tropical Storm Elsa, battering the opposite side of Florida, having receded.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a briefing that in addition to the 46 confirmed dead, 94 others who may have been inside the building in Surfside when it partially collapsed on June 24 were still unaccounted for.

Levine Cava, who shed tears as she repeated her remarks in Spanish, said the rescue effort had been made easier by the planned demolition on Sunday night of the half of building that had remained standing.

“The team continues to make progress in the areas of the pile that was inaccessible prior to the demolition,” Levine Cava said.

As she spoke, a new shift of workers walked by in small groups, wearing clean uniforms and not sharing a word with each other, while a group leaving the rubble pile looked exhausted and were drenched in sweat.

Though local officials say they have not given up hope of finding survivors, no one has been discovered alive in the rubble since the first few hours after the building came down.

Asked about whether continuing the search was giving families false hope, Levine Cava said: “They are being supported to come to closure as soon as possible.”

(reporting by Brad Brooks and Franciso Alvarado; additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; editing by Jonathan Oatis and John Stonestreet)

Rescuers still hope for survivors as death toll in Florida collapse hits 10

By Gabriella Borter

SURFSIDE, Fla. (Reuters) -Rescue workers pulled a 10th body from the rubble of a collapsed Florida condominium on Monday, as officials vowed to keep searching for any possible survivors five days after the 12-story building fell without warning as residents slept.

Crews were using cranes, dogs and infrared scans as they looked for signs of life amid the ruins, hoping air pockets may have formed underneath the concrete that could be keeping some people alive.

“We’re going to continue and work ceaselessly to exhaust every possible options in our search,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news briefing.

The death toll appears certain to rise, and Levine Cava acknowledged the number of casualties is “fluid.” There are 151 people still unaccounted for.

The cause of the collapse at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, near Miami, remains under investigation.

A 2018 engineer’s report found serious concrete deterioration in the underground parking garage as well as major damage in the concrete slab beneath the pool deck. The author, Frank Morabito, wrote the deterioration would “expand exponentially” if it was not repaired in the near future.

But Ross Prieto, then Surfside’s top building official, met residents the following month after reviewing the report and assured them the building was “in very good shape,” according to minutes of the meeting released by the town on Monday.

Reuters was unable to reach Prieto, who is no longer employed by Surfside. He told the Miami Herald newspaper he did not remember getting the report.

The engineer’s report was commissioned in advance of the condo seeking recertification, a required process for buildings that reach 40 years of age. The tower was constructed in 1981. An estimate prepared by Morabito Consultants in 2018 put the cost of repairs at $9.1 million, including electrical, plumbing and work on the fa├žade.

After the meeting, Prieto emailed the town’s manager to say it “went very well. The response was very positive from everyone in the room. All main concerns over their forty year recertification process were addressed.”

Guillermo Olmedillo, Surfside’s town manager in 2018, told Reuters he did not recall hearing about any issues related to the tower based on the engineer’s report.

“The last thing I knew was that everything is OK, reported by the building official,” he said.

Gregg Schlesinger, a lawyer and former general contractor who specializes in construction-failure cases, said it was clear the deficiencies identified in the 2018 report were the main cause of the disaster.

But Donna DiMaggio Berger, a lawyer who works with the condo association, said the issues were typical for older buildings in the area and did not alarm board members, all of whom lived in the tower with their families.

Morabito Consultants was retained by the building in 2020 to prepare a 40-year building repair plan.

The firm said on Saturday that roof repairs were underway at the time of the collapse but concrete restoration had not yet started.

“We are deeply troubled by this building collapse and are working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed,” it said.

Levine Cava vowed officials will “get to the bottom” of why the building collapsed but said the priority right now is searching for survivors.

‘TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE’

Miami-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said workers have found voids large enough to keep victims alive.

“Not to say that we have see anyone down there, but we’ve not gotten to the very bottom,” he said.

He said searchers have heard some sounds, such as tapping of scratching, though he acknowledged it could be metal shifting. But he emphasized that there is no set amount of time after which the rescue effort should cease.

The teams include experts sent by Israel and Mexico to assist in the search.

Some relatives of those missing have provided DNA samples to officials, and family members were permitted to pay a private visit to the site by special arrangement on Sunday, Levine Cava said.

The police have identified eight victims, including a couple married for nearly 60 years and a mother whose teenage son is one of the few known survivors.

At a makeshift memorial a block away, tributes to the victims and “missing” posters hung on a chain-link fence, with flowers and children’s toys strewn about.

Given the scores of those still missing, the disaster may end up one of the deadliest non-deliberate structural failures in U.S. history.

Ninety-eight people perished when the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., gave way from the weight of snow during a silent movie screening in January 1922. Two interior walkways collapsed into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, during a dance party in July 1981, killing 114.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Brad Heath, Peter Szekely and Kanishka Singh; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alistair Bell)

Vaccine protects COVID-19 survivors against variants; virus’ spike protein damages blood vessels

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Vaccine protects COVID-19 survivors against variants

In COVID-19 survivors, the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine protects not only against the original virus strain but also against worrisome variants, two studies show. UK researchers analyzed immune responses after a single dose of the vaccine in 51 people, including 25 people previously infected with an early version of the novel coronavirus. Survivors showed enhanced antibody responses against the newer, more infectious variants first seen in the UK and South Africa, whereas people who had not previously been infected did not produce antibodies that could neutralize the variants, according to a report on Friday in Science. Separately, U.S researchers studied 30 people after two doses of the vaccine. Immune responses were 3.4 times better at neutralizing the coronavirus in the 10 COVID-19 survivors than in the 20 who were not previously infected, they reported on medRxiv on Thursday ahead of peer review. The difference was even greater when looking at neutralization of new variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil, said coauthor Fikadu Tafesse of Oregon Health & Science University. “For example, the South African variant, which is the best at evading neutralizing antibodies, was 6.5 times better blocked,” or neutralized, in blood samples from people who were vaccinated after infection, he said. “Our findings give people another reason to go out and get vaccinated even if they have already had COVID-19.”

COVID-19 spike protein damages blood vessels

The “spike” proteins that the coronavirus uses to help it break into cells inflicts other damage as well, according to a new study that shines a spotlight on the many ways COVID-19 attacks organs other than the lungs. The spike proteins themselves cause direct damage to the cells that line the blood vessels, scientists found in test tube experiments using an engineered version of the spike and artery-lining cells obtained from mice. After attaching itself to the ACE2 protein on healthy cells, the spike disrupts signaling from ACE2 to the mitochondria – the cell’s energy-generating structures – causing the mitochondria to become damaged, researchers reported on Friday in Circulation Research. COVID-19 is really a disease of the blood vessels, coauthor Uri Manor of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California said in a statement. The new findings could help explain the blood clots associated with COVID-19. They could also explain “why some people have strokes, and why some people have issues in other parts of the body,” Manor said. “The commonality between them is that they all have vascular underpinnings.”

Cancer screenings in U.S. plummeted during pandemic

Nearly 10 million screenings for three common cancers were missed in the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study suggests. Researchers who compared monthly spring and summer screening rates in 2020 to rates in 2018 and 2019 found a 90.8% decline in breast cancer screening, a 79.3% decline in colorectal cancer screening and a 63.4% decline in prostate cancer screening just in the month of April 2020, researchers reported on Thursday in JAMA Oncology. “There was a deficit of 9.4 million in screening for the three major cancers across the United States that was most likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said coauthor Dr. Ronald Chen of the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City. “This is a deficit we have to make up for in 2021.” One bit of good news from the study: telehealth visits seemed to be associated with getting cancer screenings back on track. Healthcare teams that could reach patients through telehealth “were able to come up with a plan for screening,” Chen said. “This emphasizes the importance of telehealth and the importance of continuing it after the pandemic is over.”

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Linda Carroll; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Rescuers hunt for survivors after cyclone kills 119 in Indonesia

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for dozens missing in the remote islands of southeast Indonesia on Tuesday, as reinforcements arrived to help in the aftermath of a tropical cyclone that killed at least 119 people.

Helicopters were deployed to aid the search, and ships carrying food, water, blankets and medicine reached ports previously blocked by high waves whipped up by tropical cyclone Seroja, which brought heavy rain and triggered deadly floods and landslides on Sunday.

Indonesia’s disaster agency BNPB revised upwards the death toll from the cyclone in the East Nusa Tenggara islands, after earlier saying 86 had died. Seventy-six people were still missing.

“The rescue team is moving on the ground. The weather is good,” BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati told a news briefing.

Search and rescue personnel, however, had trouble transporting heavy equipment for use in the search.

“Search for victims is constrained, the existing heavy equipment cannot be sent to their destination, especially in Adonara and Alor,” the head of BNPB, Doni Monardo, said.

The Adonara and Alor islands were among the islands worst hit by the cyclone, with 62 and 21 people dead respectively.

Aerial images from Adonara on Tuesday showed brown mud and flood water covering a vast area, burying houses, roads and trees.

The military and volunteers arrived on the islands on Tuesday and were setting up public kitchens, while medical workers were brought in.

Video taken by a local official in Tanjung Batu village on Lembata, home to the Ile Lewotolok volcano, showed felled trees and large rocks of cold lava that had crushed homes after being dislodged by the cyclone.

Thousands of people have been displaced, nearly 2,000 buildings including a hospital were impacted, and more than 100 homes heavily damaged by the cyclone.

Two people died in nearby West Nusa Tenggara province.

There were also concerns about possible COVID-19 infections in crowded evacuation centers.

In neighboring East Timor, at least 33 were killed in floods and landslides and by falling trees. Civil defense authorities were using heavy equipment to search for survivors.

“The number of victims could still increase because many victims have not been found,” the main director of civil protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told Reuters.

“They were buried by landslides and carried away by floods.”

Some residents of Lembata island may have also been washed away by mud into the sea.

A volcano that erupted on Lembata last month wiped out vegetation atop the mountain, which allowed hardened lava to slide towards 300 houses when the cyclone struck, a senior district official said, hoping help was on the way.

“We were only able to search on the seashore, not in the deeper area, because of lack of equipment yesterday,” Thomas Ola Langoday told Reuters by phone.

He feared many bodies were still buried under large rocks.

President Joko Widodo urged his cabinet to speed up evacuation and relief efforts and to restore power.

Weather agency head Dwikorita Karnawati said once-rare tropical cyclones were happening more often in Indonesia and climate change could be to blame.

“Seroja is the first time we’re seeing tremendous impact because it hit the land. It’s not common,” she said.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Stanley Widianto and Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta and Nelson Da Cruz in Dili; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty, Tom Hogue and Bernadette Baum)

Auschwitz marks anniversary virtually as survivors fear end of an era

By Kacper Pempel and Joanna Plucinska

OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) – Marian Turski, a 94-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, was marking the 76th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops on Wednesday only virtually, aware that he might never return as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

Survivors and museum officials told Reuters they fear the pandemic could end the era where Auschwitz’s former prisoners can tell their own stories to visitors on site. Most Auschwitz survivors are in their eighties and nineties.

“Even if there was no pandemic, there would be fewer survivors at every anniversary,” Turski told Reuters in a Zoom interview from his Warsaw home.

“People at my age who are already vulnerable to many other illnesses are also in the first line of fire for this virus.”

He declined an in-person interview, in part due to the pandemic risks.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial preserves the Auschwitz death camp set up on Polish soil by Nazi Germany during World War Two. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers at the camp or from starvation, cold and disease.

Wednesday’s ceremony marking the camp’s liberation will take place virtually starting at 1500 GMT, with speeches by survivors, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Israeli and Russian diplomats, as well as a debate on the Holocaust’s influence on children.

Other virtual ceremonies will also take place to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Memorial has been closed to visitors for 161 days due to the pandemic. In 2019 it was visited by around 2.3 million people. In 2020 that number dropped to around 502,000.

The Museum’s director, Piotr Cywinski, acknowledged virtual events and education programs were not as effective in passing on the lessons of the Holocaust and World War Two.

“Nothing will replace witnessing the place in its authentic state, because this isn’t just about seeing and listening. This is about looking around, in your own steps, touching, experiencing different perspectives, understanding,” Cywinski told Reuters.

WARNING THE WORLD

Survivors emphasized the importance of finding ways to keep Auschwitz relevant after they can no longer tell their own stories, amid a rise in far-right movements and anti-Semitism.

In Germany, former finance minister and now president of the lower house of parliament, Wolfgang Schaeuble, warned that “our culture of remembrance does not protect us from a brazen reinterpretation and even a denial of history”.

He added that racism and anti-Semitism were spreading through internet forums and conspiracy theories, stressing society’s collective responsibility to honor the memory of the Holocaust.

Some Auschwitz survivors, like Bogdan Bartnikowski, 89, said they were optimistic that the pandemic would not end their chances of returning to the memorial and telling their stories.

“I have hope that for sure there will continue to be groups of visitors to the museum,” Bartnikowski said. “Us former prisoners will not be lacking.”

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kacper Pempel; additional reporting by Philip Pullella and Madeline Chambers; Writing by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Giles Elgood)

China says 10 workers trapped in gold mine are searching for others

By Emily Chow

QIXIA, China (Reuters) – The 10 known survivors trapped since a deadly Jan. 10 gold mine explosion in northern China have been using laser pointers and loudspeakers to try to find their missing colleagues, state media reported on Friday.

The rescue operation, which has been able to get food and medicines to the miners, was expected to take at least another two weeks, authorities have said.

White bottles of food and water sent down to the trapped workers had a note stuck on them saying, “We are all waiting for you, keep going!”, photos shared by propaganda department officials with Reuters on Friday showed.

The food items sent to the workers include millet porridge, quail eggs, pickles and sausages and medical supplies included disinfectant, masks and cotton socks.

“The physical condition, psychological condition and living environment of 10 miners in the middle section of the mine are good,” the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, reported on Friday.

“The miners continued to search for other trapped persons through laser pointer projection and loudspeaker shouting,” it said.

A total of 22 workers were trapped in the Hushan mine by the Jan 10 blast in Qixia, a major gold-producing region under the administration of Yantai in coastal Shandong province.

One has died and 11 were not in contact with the rescue teams, according to a Xinhua radio report on Thursday.

At least 15 days may be needed to clear the “severe blockages” as rescuers continued to drill shafts to reach the 10 men, officials said on Thursday.

At the site, security was tight on Friday and Reuters journalists were not permitted to get close to the rescue operation.

Workers in orange high visibility clothing could be seen operating heavy machinery. At the entrance to the site, a medical tent had been set up to administer COVID tests for rescue workers.

About 570 people are involved in the rescue, the newspaper said.

China’s mines are among the world’s deadliest. It has recorded 573 mine-related deaths in 2020, according to the National Mine Safety Administration.

(Reporting by Emily Chow in Qixia and Beijing newsroom; Writing by Shivani Singh; Editing by Tony Munroe and Philippa Fletcher)

China rescuers prepare escape route for trapped gold miners

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Rescue teams on Wednesday drilled new holes down a gold mine in China’s Shandong province, searching for more survivors after an explosion 10 days ago and preparing an escape passage for a group known to still be alive, state media reported.

A total of 22 workers were trapped underground in the Hushan gold mine on the outskirts of Yantai, on China’s eastern coast, following the Jan. 10. blast. Rescuers have managed to deliver supplies to 11 workers, one of whom is in a coma after sustaining a head injury during the explosion.

Another eight of the 11 are in good health, while two are unwell, Shandong’s official Qilu Daily newspaper said, citing the rescue headquarters. One more worker who survived is in another section of the mine and believed to be injured, while the whereabouts of the remaining 10 are unclear, it added.

China has deployed 16 professional rescue teams and dozens of medical personnel to try to save the miners.

Song Xicheng, the medical rescue team leader, told reporters that more than 80 medical personnel were on standby, including nutritionists, neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists.

The operation involves drilling 10 channels, with one 711 millimeter-(2.33-foot)-wide hole – intended to serve as an escape route – wide enough to lift out the miners, the People’s Daily said. Rescuers could not say when this hole would be finished but admitted they were in a race against time.

An air ventilation shaft that rescuers also want to use to pull the miners to safety has been cleared to a depth of 350 meters (1,148 feet), the report said. The miners were working at a depth of more than 600 meters at the time of the explosion.

A channel previously used to send down supplies has been replaced because water inside was posing a threat to those underground, while another hole is being drilled to search for more signs of life, Beijing Evening News reported.

(Reporting by David Stanway; additional reporting by Tom Daly and Colin Qian; Editing by Stephen Coates and Mark Heinrich)

Missing people presumed dead after Norway landslide, police chief says

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian rescue workers gave up hope on Tuesday of finding more survivors from a Dec. 30 landslide that swept away a dozen buildings but vowed to continue the search for three people who are still missing.

Seven men, women and children have so far been found dead after a landslide struck a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, some 30 km (19 miles) north of the capital, Oslo.

“While we no longer have hope of finding survivors, we’re not ending the search,” police chief Ida Melbo Oeystese told a news conference.

Police and other rescue workers used dogs, drones and helicopters, including heat-seeking equipment, to search for survivors in the debris.

The landslide and the rescue effort have gripped the Nordic nation of 5.4 million, but with temperatures well below freezing, the hope of finding anyone alive had rapidly faded.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Guatemala Mayan villagers tell of harrowing escape from deadly landslide

By Sofia Menchu

CHICUZ, Guatemala (Reuters) – Matilde Ical Chen was toasting tortillas over a wood fire for the midday meal when the landslide ripped through the Guatemalan Mayan indigenous village of Queja, burying her mother, sisters and grandparents in a torrent of liquid earth and rock.

Ical Chen, 49, grabbed her husband and six small children and ran, barely surviving a fall into a ravine, she told Reuters in Chicuz, a hamlet three hours on foot from Queja, where she and hundreds of other survivors are now sheltered in a primary school after Thursday’s disaster.

“My mother was buried, along with my sisters, their husbands, the whole family, even the grandparents,” Ical Chen said though an interpreter, counting approximately 30 family members who did not escape the mud that rescuers say is up to 50 feet (15 meters) deep.

“We have food here, but I can’t eat for the worry,” she said, clutching a scarf as tears ran down her cheeks.

A deluge linked to storm Eta killed dozens and caused devastation from Panama to Mexico last week. But perhaps nowhere was harder hit than Guatemala, where poor Mayan villages precariously perched on lush mountainsides are susceptible to landslides.

Rescuers say they may never know how many people were buried in the mud in Queja, about 200 km (125 miles) from Guatemala City. The government has estimated up to 150 lives lost.

But braving loose ground and new landslides that made rescue work perilous, survivors returned on Sunday desperately looking for relatives and scant belongings – clothes, a little food, their livestock.

With the first break from days of relentless rain allowing more access, helicopters buzzed in and out of the village and surrounding hamlets, bringing supplies and rescue workers who recovered at least six bodies, even as new landslides endangered more lives.

At least two people were killed when a light aircraft carrying humanitarian aid for the disaster area crashed in Guatemala City, while another helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing.

Rolando Cal was among the survivors who made the treacherous trek back to Queja, a Poqomchi’ Mayan settlement of about 1,300 people, searching for any of his 23 relatives lost in the mud when the mountainside collapsed after days of rain.

“This is where my whole family and my home were destroyed,” Cal said, pointing to a pile of rubble where his house once stood, a vast gash of bare earth stark against the lush landscape and remaining houses beyond.

“I no longer have a place to live,” said Cal, who walked into Queja on Sunday from neighboring Santa Elena, where he has found shelter. “Without food, without money. I’m miserable.”

When a helicopter carrying supplies organized by a retired general, Francisco Mus, arrived in Chicuz, survivors huddled in the schoolyard ran out, desperate for possible news of loved ones left behind. Among some 450 people sheltered at the school, many were saved by Chicuz residents who risked their own lives to clamber into gullies and pull stranded families up with ropes, village official Raul Gualin said.

Bedraggled, and with only the clothes on her back, Ical Chen said she was grateful to the village for taking her in. She too thinks she, her husband and children will not return to Queja now, or maybe ever.

“We will try to find refuge in another place, and not go back there,” she said. “I lost my whole family.”

(Additional reporting Luis Echeverria in Queja and by Enrique Garcia in Guatemala City; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Gerry Doyle)