GUATEMALA CITY

Mud slides’ death toll rises to 45 after torrential rains

Searchers Monday pulled five more bodies from a mud-covered highway where back-to-back landslides buried bus passengers and people trying to save them. Yet more mud slides helped raise Guatemala’s official death toll to 45 after days of torrential rains.

Authorities said 25 people are confirmed dead and at least 15 are believed to be still buried in the debris in the village of Nahuala, where a first mud slide buried a bus and other vehicles, then a second one turned would-be rescuers into victims.

At least 20 others died over the weekend elsewhere as a tropical depression saturated the ground and set off more than a dozen landslides around the country, according to the national disaster agency. The most recent slide, on a highway in northern Guatemala, killed one person and injured 26 on Sunday.

In Nahuala, emergency crews and villagers rushed to the Inter-American highway Saturday, picks and shovels in hand, after radio reports of the slide – only to be swamped by the second cascade of rock and earth.

Search and rescue efforts were suspended Sunday for fear that the mountainside could give way yet again, but digging resumed Monday with heavy machinery and fewer workers, said Sergio Cabanas, a Civil Protection director.

AMSTERDAM

Report: Van der sloot admitsHolloway extortion scheme

The Dutchman charged with killing a 21-year-old Peruvian woman and suspected in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway has acknowledged extorting money from Holloway’s parents and says he did it to get back at them.

In an interview published Monday, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf quoted Joran van der Sloot as confessing to taking money from Holloway’s family in return for revealing the location of her body. He was indicted in the U.S. in June for extortion after being caught in an FBI sting, but the place he indicated as her burial site turned out to be bogus.

Holloway was last seen alive with him on the Caribbean resort island of Aruba in 2005, and he has publicly said he killed her and then retracted his confession several times.

MADRID

Spain rejects truce as bid by separatists to buy time

Spaniards inured to cease-fire announcements by the violent Basque separatist group ETA were mulling whether the latest one holds anything different or will fail like the others to end Europe’s last major armed militancy.

The government Monday swiftly ruled out holding negotiations on a Basque homeland and rejected Sunday’s truce as a desperate gambit by an extremist group staggering after the arrests of its leaders.

Spain claimed the cease-fire was just another gambit by ETA in order to buy time, regroup and rearm.

Since launching its campaign for an independent Basque homeland in the 1960s and killing over 825 people in the process, ETA has announced 11 cease-fires, the last of them in 2006.

Promising peace talks with the government ensued but quickly went nowhere, and nine months later ETA reverted to violence with a car bomb that killed two Ecuadorean immigrants in a parking garage in Madrid.

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico

Tropical Storm Hermine makes landfall in Mexico

Tropical Storm Hermine slammed into Mexico’s northern Gulf coast late Monday with winds of 60 mph, lashing Mexico and southern Texas with heavy rains that authorities warned could cause flash flooding.

Authorities in Mexico urged people to move to shelters, while officials in Texas offered residents sandbags and put shelters on standby.

Hermine was expected to cross the border after touching land in Mexico about 30 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. It was expected to push northward and weaken into a tropical depression this afternoon or evening.