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Guatemala volcano: Death toll reaches at least 62 after Fuego erupts

Entire communities unaccounted for as some areas still burning, say authorities

Jon Sharman,Emily Shugerman
Monday 04 June 2018 23:51 BST
Guatemala 'Fuego' volcano eruption kills dozens bringing national emergency

Rescuers have pulled survivors and bodies from the charred aftermath of the powerful eruption of Guatemala's Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, with the death toll rose to 62 and set to increase.

The head of of Guatemala's National Forensic Sciences Institute reported the latest death toll, after the volcano erupted on Sunday, engulfing homes in three villages in the central American country and cutting off several communities from aid.

The disaster caught residents of remote mountain hamlets off guard, with little or no time to flee to safety and whole villages remain unaccounted for. Thirteen of the victims have so far been identified, with hundreds of others left injured..

As Guatemalan authorities dealt with rescue operations Israel said it had delivered food, blankets and medicine through its embassy.

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Bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues, and rescuers were forced to use sledgehammers to break through the roofs of houses buried in debris up to their rooflines to try to see if anyone was trapped inside.

“It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints” from the red-hot flows, Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences said. “We are going to have to resort to other methods ... and if possible take DNA samples to identify them.”

Guatemalan authorities say they had been closely monitoring the Volcano of Fire, one of Central America's most active, after activity picked up around 6am Sunday.

The volcano has registered a number of minor eruptions over the years, and no evacuations were ordered as scientific experts reported the activity was decreasing.

Guatemala's disaster agency, Conred, issued a number of standard precautions, advising people to wear protective face masks, clean their rooftops of ash once the eruption was over and cover any food and water intended for human consumption. It also said to heed any recommendations from authorities. Guatemala City's international airport was closed due to the danger to planes.

Conred spokesman David de Leon said that around 2pm the volcano registered a new, more powerful explosion.

Soon, searing flows of lava, ash and rock mixed with water and debris were gushing down the volcano's flanks, blocking roads and burning homes.

“It travelled much faster. It arrived in communities right when the evacuation alerts were being sent out,” de Leon said.

Authorities scrambled to issue an evacuation order. Some communities emptied out safely. But in places like Los Lotes and the village of El Rodeo, about eight miles downslope from the crater, it was too late for many.

Associated Press


Welcome to our live coverage of the rescue effort in Guatemala, where a volcanic eruption has killed at least 25 people.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 12:22
Jon Sharman4 June 2018 12:22

Earlier on Monday, Guatemala's government announced three nationwide days of mourning for the "irreparable" loss of life caused by the eruption.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 12:35

Municipal authorities in Guatemala City, where ash from the Volcán de Fuego has also fallen, have issued advice to residents.

People should cover guttering and drain pipes on their houses, and clean off any ash by dampening it first. If they must go outside, they should cover their mouth and nose, the city said.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 12:44

According to Guatemala's disaster relief agency, more than 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption. And 3,265 have been helped and evacuated from affected areas.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 13:26

A new explosion and pyroclastic flow have been reported by Guatemala's disaster agency, it has been reported.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 14:39

The Guatemalan government has released this video of the affected area in the aftermath of Sunday's eruption:

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 15:07

The army has been ordered into areas affected by the eruptions to help with rescue efforts, the Guatemalan government has said.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 15:18

Seismic activity is diminishing in the area around the Volcan de Fuego, Guatemala's National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology has said.

Following the volcano's second eruption of the year, it is now producing between five and seven explosions per hour, varying in intensity from weak, to moderate, to strong.

"Abundant" ash clouds reach some 15,000ft into the air, the institute said.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 15:42

The death toll from Sunday's eruption has increased to 38, Guatemala's disaster agency said. Two million people have been affected.

Jon Sharman4 June 2018 15:52

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