Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption: Almost 200 still missing as powerful blast sparks fresh panic

A total of 192 people remained missing after the Fuego volcano’s eruption in Guatemala, officials said on Tuesday, as another powerful explosion sparked a mass evacuation of areas already devastated.

Two days after the eruption killed at least 75 people, the terrain was still too hot in many places for rescue crews to search for bodies or – increasingly unlikely with each passing day – survivors.

"We now have an accounting with names and towns where people have gone missing and we have a figure, which is 192 people who we have unaccounted for," Disaster Relief Agency chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters.

By Tuesday afternoon a new column of smoke was rising from the mountain and Guatemala’s disaster agency said volcanic material was descending its south side, prompting an evacuation order and the closure of a nearby national highway.

Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave the area as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared, "Evacuate!"

Matt Goldsmith, 22, was arriving in Alotenango, just over five miles from the volcano, when the thunderous activity began again.

"There was a lot of panic… we had just arrived in Alotenango and had to turn around. A policeman told us the area was being evacuated," he told the Press Association.

"There was a traffic jam because the roads are not built for all the aid vehicles that have come to help."

Guatemala's Fuego volcano eruption, in pictures

Seven communities were evacuated  while in the city of Escuintla, near the summit, panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape, causing chaotic traffic.

The search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was progressing slowly, officials had said earlier, given the nature of the terrain and the way the volcano released large amounts of boiling mud, rock and ash down the mountain.

The latest of the 73 victims was a 42-year-old woman who died in hospital having lost both legs and an arm in the eruption.

The 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano erupted early on Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud.

Displaced people leave an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in Escuintla, GuatemalaCredit:
Reuters

Authorities said more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the disaster, including more than 3,000 ordered evacuated, many living in shelters in Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango since Sunday’s eruption.

What was once a collection of verdant canyons, hillsides and farms now resembles a moonscape of ash, rock and debris.

 

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