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More than 30 dead in Guatemala landslide

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  • NEW: Death toll rises to 33, rescue official says
  • Up to 60 people missing in Guatemala landslide, official says
  • Two people died in landslide in the same area in mid-December, paper says
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GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) -- The death toll from a landslide in Guatemala grew to 33 people Monday afternoon, with up to 60 still missing, a rescue official said.

A landslide in the same area in northwest Guatemala killed two people December 14.

Six people were injured in Sunday's landslide, which blocked nearly one mile of road between Chicaman and San Cristobal Verapaz, said Hugo Arbizu, spokesman for the national disaster agency.

The tragedy occurred when travelers got out of a truck Sunday and started to walk across a path below the part of the road blocked by the previous landslide, Arbizu told CNN. Around 11:30 a.m., more than 10 tons of dirt and rock fell on them.

After the previous landslide, geologists declared that stretch of road a high-risk area, and nearby residents reported hearing occasional rumblings. Any type of travel over that segment had been prohibited, Arbizu said.

Video footage on CNN affiliate Canal 7 TV showed rocks and dirt continuing to slide down a mountain after the disaster.

The search was called off at 6 p.m. Sunday because of concerns over more landslides, but it resumed at 6 a.m. Monday, Arbizu said.

Guatemalan Vice President Rafael Espada toured the site, accompanied by Alejandro Maldonado, head of the national agency for the reduction of disasters, and Health Minister Celso Cerezo.

Espalda said the government would help families with funeral costs, but it was difficult to identify some bodies because they were so badly mutilated, the Prensa Libre newspaper said.

Makeshift morgues were set up nearby, with the expectation that more bodies will be found, Cerezo said.

The first rescuers on the scene described the devastation, even as they watched for further slides.

"When we arrived, we found a dramatic scene with many people crying for family members buried when they tried to cross," Jorge Bol of the volunteer fire department in San Cristobal Verapaz told the newspaper.

Photos on the Prensa Libre Web site showed family members and others helping rescue crews carry victims out of the disaster area and bodies lined up behind an ambulance.

Journalist Patzy Vasquez contributed to this report.

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