MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Rescue workers recovered hundreds of bodies Sunday from communities buried when a lake in a volcano crater overflowed and sent tons of mud and rock hurtling down on villages below. The finds boosted the death toll from former Hurricane Mitch to 977.

Authorities feared that many more bodies would be found in 10 communities at the foot of the Casitas Volcano in northern Nicaragua.

Mitch was one of the most violent hurricanes to hit the Caribbean, causing heavy rains and floods as it cut a fatal path along the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua and other Central American countries.

The first army rescue helicopters to reach the volcano on Sunday found widespread destruction, an army spokesman said. Rescue workers recovered 360 bodies in four villages near Posoltega, about 50 miles northwest of Managua.