The mudslide was triggered four days ago as Tropical Storm Stan swept across Central America leaving a trail of death and destruction.

“This should be declared a mass grave. It is a cemetery for 1,400 persons, we calculate,” said Diego Mendoza, mayor of nearby Santiago Atitlan.

In the early hours of Wednesday an avalanche of rock and mud tumbled from the slopes of San Lucas volcano onto the towns of Panajab and Tzanchaj, 180 kilometers west of Guatemala City.

Few bodies found

Only 71 bodies have been recovered so far, mostly children.

The corpses were placed in makeshift wooden coffins and quickly interred.

Ten more bodies were recovered in Guatemala Sunday, bringing the total toll from Stan in the hardest-hit country in the region to 519.

“The size of the disaster is enormous. The losses are colossal,” Vice-President Eduardo Stein said during an interview with Sonora radio about widespread flooding and landslides triggered by Stan since October 1.

Vice-President Stein said 130,000 persons were directly affected by Stan.

However, he said that 3.5 million people have been affected in areas where water and electricity have been cut.

The death toll in all of Central America and Mexico from Stan’s passing has risen to at least 629.

In El Salvador 71 people died, 28 died in Mexico and 11 in Nicaragua, authorities in those countries said.

Presidential plea

Guatemalan President Oscar Berger has made an impassioned plea for international assistance, estimating agricultural losses at A$150 million dollars.

But he did not hold out much hope for his compatriots.

“I believe we are in for more unpleasant surprises,” President Berger said.

“Many people remain missing. There have been many mudslides, and many communities remain cut off.”

Infrastructure and housing minister Eduardo Castillo said more than half of Guatemala’s 10,000 kilometers of rural roads had been damaged.

The United States, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Canada and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration have pledged help.

Mexico vaccinations

Mexico, meanwhile, launched a vaccination drive amid an outbreak of dengue fever in the storm-hit area.

A quarantine was slapped on the town of Huejutla, in central Hidalgo state, where 180 fell ill.

Cuba sent 100 doctors to administer vaccines in El Salvador, earning the thanks of President Antonio Saco.

Deadly hurricane season

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, has been one of the deadliest and most active on record. Stan was the 10th Atlantic hurricane this year.

Hurricane Katrina, which slammed the US Gulf of Mexico coast August 29, killed more than 1,200 people, becoming the deadliest storm to hit the United States since 1928.

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