Horrifying images of devastation continue to pour out of Guatemala, after the eruption of the “Fuego” volcano near the country’s capital.
Rescuers have recovered 99 bodies of those burned and buried alive – only identifying 28, while nearly 200 are still missing after deadly pyroclastic lava flows and giant clouds of superheated smoke and ash buried entire towns.
A secondary eruption on Tuesday ejected more ash and smoke over 16,000 feet into the air, sending more volcanic material over nearby settlements to the east and northeast.
Rescue workers sticking metal rods into the ground sent clouds of noxious smoke billowing into the air, as temperatures below the surface have remained between 750F – 1300F (400-700 Celsius) in some places. A red alert remained in place for the Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango regions where people have been advised not to go near affected zones.
“We can only work in places where we can stand on the roofs of houses… because the ash is very hot,” rescuer Diego Lorenzana, 25, said. “There are places where you stick the pickaxe or rod in and we see a lot of smoke coming out and fire and it’s impossible to keep digging because we could die.”
Over 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, while 12,000 have been evacuated to overpacked relief centers where volunteers have been handing out food and emergency rations.
The country’s seismology and volcanology institute warned of new flows descending through canyons on the volcano’s western slope toward the Pantaleon River, carrying boulders and tree trunks.
At a shelter in the Murray D. Lincoln school in the city of Escuintla, about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the volcano’s peak, Alfonso Castillo said he and his extended family of 30 had lived on a shared plot in San Miguel Los Lotes where each family had its own home. –Circa
As the Daily Mail reports, “what was once a collection of green canyons, hillsides and farms were reduced to grey devastation by fast-moving avalanches of super-heated muck that roared into the tightly knit villages on the mountain’s flanks.”
Farm worker Alfonso Castillo, 33, said his village of San Miguel Los Lotes was completely obliterated by what he described as a ‘sea’ of muck that came crashing into homes, inundating people, pets and wildlife.
‘In a matter of three or four minutes the village disappeared,’ he said.
The family holed up in a house that heated up ‘like a boiler’ inside, he said, then made their way onto the roof and then to the upper story of another, concrete home. After a cellphone call to Mr Castillo’s brother, rescuers arrived and took the family to safety.
‘Nobody wants to go back there. My children say they would rather be in the streets,’ he said.
‘There are many people who are helping us, but we have absolutely nothing. We could not get anything out. For us, there is no tomorrow.‘ –Daily Mail
Rescue efforts were suspended on Thursday after heavy rains and dangerous still-hot volcanic material has made it dangerous for rescuers.
Efforts were cut short again Wednesday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides. Boiling water flowing down the volcano’s slopes from dangerously hot volcanic gas and ash also posed a threat. A day earlier, flows of super-heated volcanic material forced crews to pull back.
But between stoppages, search teams working with shovels and heavy equipment found more bodies from Sunday’s big eruption. Remains were loaded into body bags and carried out on stretchers.
Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences raised the death toll to 99 late in afternoon, an increase of 24 bodies for the day. Only 28 of the total had been identified. At least 197 people were listed as missing. –Circa
“Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here,” Efrain Suarez said, standing amid the smoking holes dotting what used to be the village of San Miguel Los Lotes on the flanks of the mountain.
“The bodies are already charred,” the 59-year-old truck driver said. “And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart.”
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