Luis Echeverria  /  AP
A massive sinkhole covers a street intersection in downtown Guatemala City. Officials blamed the heavy rains for the crater, which swallowed a three-story building. Last April 2007, another giant sinkhole in the same area killed 3 people.
updated 6/1/2010 1:59:44 PM ET 2010-06-01T17:59:44

Rural villagers used hoes and pick axes to hunt for victims of landslides that have killed at least 179 people in Central America while officials in Guatemala's capital tried to cope with a vast sinkhole that swallowed a clothing factory.

Thousands remained homeless and dozens still missing following the season's first tropical storm. Rescue crews struggled to reach isolated communities to distribute food and water.

"This is a total tragedy," said Jose Vicente Samayoa, president of a neighborhood group in Amatitlan, a flooded town south of Guatemala's capital.

Officials in Guatemala reported 152 dead but said 100 people were still missing. In the department of Chimaltenango — a province west of Guatemala City — landslides buried rural Indian communities and killed at least 60 people.

Curious onlookers also gathered at a massive sinkhole that swallowed an entire intersection in Guatemala City over the weekend, gulping down a clothing factory but causing no deaths or injuries.

Authorities estimate the hole is 65 feet (20 meters) deep and say it was caused by water from Tropical Storm Agatha.

Video: Dozens dead Nearly 125,000 people were evacuated in Guatemala and thousands more fled their homes in neighboring Honduras, where the death toll rose to 17 after two youths disappeared while bathing in a turbulent river despite official warnings to stay away from swollen waterways.

Most schools also resumed classes on Tuesday in Honduras.

In El Salvador, 11,000 people were evacuated. The death toll rose to 10 and two others were missing, President Mauricio Funes said Monday night.

About 95 percent of the country's roads were affected by landslides, but most remained open, Transportation Minister Gerson Martinez said. He said 179 bridges had been wrecked.

Agatha made landfall near the Guatemala-Mexico border on Saturday with tropical storm winds of up to 45 mph (75 kph). It dissipated the following day over the mountains of western Guatemala.

The rising death toll is reminding nervous residents of Hurricane Mitch, which hovered over Central America for days in 1998, causing flooding and mudslides that killed nearly 11,000 people and left more than 8,000 missing and unaccounted for.

Rescue efforts in Guatemala have been complicated by a volcanic eruption Thursday near the capital that blanketed parts of the area with ash.

Commercial flights were expected to resume Tuesday at Guatemala's international airport.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Storm, volcano pummel Guatemala

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  1. A huge sinkhole caused by tropical storm Agatha, in Guatemala City, on Monday, May 31. A violent storm that whalloped Central America over the weekend killed more than 100 people and left a swath of destruction, officials said Monday. Tropical Storm Agatha, the first in a season of tempests that annually strikes the region, was especially brutal in Guatemala, where mudslides proved deadly. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A woman inspects damage caused by Tropical Storm Agatha in the El Chile neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on May 31. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The overflowing Choluteca River knocked out the Bailey bridge in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Orlando Sierra / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A young girl cries while waiting in line for food at a shelter in Amatitlan, Guatemala,on Sunday,May 30. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Agatha inundate Escuintla, Guatemala, on May 30. (Presidencia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. This home in Amatitilan, Guatemala, was among the thousands flooded on Sunday. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A sinkhole caused by Agatha is seen in downtown Guatemala City on Sunday. The hole swallowed a three-story building but no injuries were reported. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A woman cleans mud from her home in Amatitilan on Sunday. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A man sits with his two dogs Sunday where his house once stood in Amatitilan. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. High winds downed poles and power lines like these in Guatemala City on Sunday. (Daniel Leclair / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. El Salvador also saw heavy rain, including this scene in the capital San Salvador on Saturday. (Jose Cabezas / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A man watches heavy swells on Saturday in Puerto San Jose, Guatemala. (Johan Ordonez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Evacuees stand at an emergency shelter in San Vicente Pacaya, Guatemala, on Saturday, May 29. The Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing Guatemala City with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. One television reporter has been killed and thousands of residents from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters. (Moises Castillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Evacuees wait for food distribution at an emergency shelter in San Vicente Pacaya, Guatemala, on Saturday. (Moises Castillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A bus is covered with volcanic ash in Guatemala City on Friday. The Pacaya volcano has erupted again and the Guatemalan government declared a general state of disaster due to the eruption. (Luis Soto / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Ash from the Pacaya volcano covers a rooftop in Guatemala City on Saturday. (Prensa Libre / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Red Cross paramedics assist a woman at the headquarters of the communal center of San Vicente Pacaya, Guatemala, on May 28. (Ulises Rodríguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A wasted corn harvest is covered by volcanic ash in the small village of Las Calderas, Guatemala, on 28 May 2010. Las Calderas was completely destroyed after the eruption of Pacaya volcano. (Ulises Rodríguez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. An American Airlines plane stands covered with volcanic ash at the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, on May 28. International flights to Guatemala have been suspended until further notice. (Luis Soto / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Daniel Morales, 9, shovels volcanic ash in a street in Guatemala City, on May 28. (Luis Soto / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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