Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Search for El Fuego eruption survivors focuses on mountain hamlets

Guatemala's Fuego volcano GETTYAsh from Guatemala's Fuego volcano
Grady Vargas | 07 June, 2018, 13:42

What was once a collection of green canyons, hillsides and farms was reduced to grey devastation by fast-moving avalanches of super-heated muck that roared into the tightly knit villages on the mountain's flanks.

On Tuesday, the volcano sent ash 16,000 feet in the sky.

In the first few hours, the ash and mud was so hot, rescuers had a hard time reaching victims and by the time they made it out to some of them it was too late.

The Volcán de Fuego is just one of the 34 active volcanoes in Central America, CNBC reported.

Alfonso Castillo, a 33-year-old farm worker, said nothing seemed abnormal on Sunday - but then the situation became significantly more unsafe.

Seven communities in already devastated areas were evacuated as the volcano's activity increased, with rescue operations halted.

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"We come in support of the people who are really risking their lives for the people who are there", said Gladys Vian, a 56-year-old member of the Catholic parish of Escuintla.

The explosions billowed ash more than 5,000m (16,000ft) above sea level, with Guatemala's seismology and volcanology institute warning that there is a moderate flow of risky material down the volcano - with the possibility of a strong flow in some areas.

A man whose rescue in the town of El Rodeo was shown on video as he was pulled out caked in mud with third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body died at a hospital today, the country's Social Security Institute said.

"We can only work in places where we can stand on the roofs of houses. because the ash is very hot". "I have three children, a grandchild, and all my brothers, my mother, all my family are there". But late in the afternoon, the country's disaster agency announced it was suspending the search again because of flows of volcanic material and falling rain. "They are taking away our opportunity to say goodbye".

A spokesman for Guatemala's firefighters said that once it reaches 72 hours after the eruption, there will be little chance of finding anyone alive. 192 more people are still missing. "There's a lot of people suffering right now because they lost their family, they lost their home, they lost everything they had, and there is a lot of people missing".

"The conditions are extremely critical at this moment", Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala's National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, said.

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