Guatemala volcano eruption death toll hits 99

Cheryl Sanders
June 9, 2018

And a total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions, disaster relief agency chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters.

Meanwhile, rescuers scoured a lava- and ash-ravaged landscape in Guatemala for a third straight day on Wednesday in search of survivors and victims of Fuego volcano's calamitous eruption. Authorities have said the window is closing on the chances of finding anyone else alive in the devastation.

According to the Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano", Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Studies said only 17 victims had been identified as of June 5.

Today, it was clear that the official death toll was sure to climb and fears spread that anyone still stuck in the buried houses was dead and would remain entombed there.

The blast produced what are known as pyroclastic flows, a potent mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that buried local towns such as El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes.

Guatemala's seismology and volcanology institute is warning of new volcanic flows on the western slope of the Volcano of Fire. Some 3,100 people have been evacuated from the area.

It said the lahars could sweep down the mountain laden with concrete, rocks up to a meter (yard) in diameter and tree trunks.

Almost 70 people are dead, hundreds hurt and thousands still evacuated following a volcano eruption in southern Guatemala. The remains were wrapped in bags.

A steam plume rises as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure.

The rescuers had begun the search for survivors with the first sunrays on Tuesday, mainly in the southern department of Escuintla, the most beaten along with Chimaltenango and Sacatepequez. Most of those who died were in the towns of El Rodeo, Alotenango and San Miguel los Lotes. Smoke rose from the volcano this morning.

Rains are now hardening the ash on the surface, making it harder to dig out bodies.

"The bodies are already charred", the 59-year-old, who works as a truck driver, continued, adding that "they will be torn apart" if machines are used in the recovery. "And if heavy equipment is available in they are going to be torn aside".

Authorities have said a communication breakdown between CONRED and volcanologists in Guatemala delayed evacuations from the surrounding area.

On an open-air patio at Murray D. Lincoln school in the nearby city of Escuintla, several people sat on plastic chairs covered by aprons as volunteers attended to them Wednesday. After the eruption, people say they had to build an impromptu bridge over hot ashes to try and get the injured the help they need. "Many of them were missing family members", he said.

The eruption forced Guatemala City's La Aurora global airport to shut down its only runway due to the presence of volcanic ash and to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala's civil aviation authority said on Twitter.

When the panic set off by the new evacuations became clear, disaster officials called for calm. Rescuers were also evacuated Tuesday.

Volcan de Fuego is one of the Central America's most active volcanos.

Over 3,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the region south-west of the capital, Guatemala City where the local Caritas organization has set up three camps for the displaced, and organized a collection for the 10 June, during which medicine, clothes and food will be accepted and distributed.

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