Death Toll Rises to 75 people
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in central American country of Guatemala following the violent eruption of the coutry’s Volcan de Fuego, or “volcano of fire,” on Sunday.
Search for survivors is still underway amid challenging rescue efforts where remote areas remain impassible due to mud, debris, and smoldering terrain. Heavy rainfall is hampering rescue efforts as well.
The volcanic eruption killed at least 69 people and displaced more than 3000 residents. Around 200 people were reported missing.
Authorities feared the death toll may continue to rise as search and rescue operations continue. An unknown number of people are missing and believed to be buried in the ash.
The 16-hour eruption on Sunday shot orange fire, a mix of ash, rock and gas into the air, leaving residents only minutes to flee.
The volcano is about 25 miles southwest of the capital, Guatemala City, and near the colonial city of Antigua.
Thousands of Residents in Evacuation Centers
The volcanic eruption left a trail of destruction where vegetation and infrastructure was covered with ash. But it also forced people to flee and settle in evacuation centers.
Around three thousand people found refuge in nearby evacuation centers and some of them are grieving with the death of family members. Families are also waiting for some reports of missing family members.
For some survivors, they recalled the fateful events with grief.
Hilda Lopez said her mother and sister were still missing after the slurry of hot gas, ash and rock roared into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain’s flanks.
“We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming,” the distraught woman said. “We didn’t believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street.”
“My mother was stuck there, she couldn’t get out,” said Lopez, weeping and holding her face in her hands.
Her husband, Joel Gonzalez, said his father had also been unable to escape and was believed to be “buried back there, at the house.”
The Violent Eruption
The volcanic eruption of Volcan de Fuego is considered the worst in a century. The unpredictable eruption caught many residents off guard. Most of the victims had only minutes to escape.
The fast-moving flows overtook people in homes and streets with temperatures reaching as high as 700 C, and hot ash and volcanic gases that can cause rapid asphyxiation.