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Guatemala volcano explodes again, evacuation ordered

Agencies GUATEMALA CITY | Updated on June 06, 2018

Policemen inspect at an area affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, Guatemala.   -  Reuters

Nearly 200 missing, 73 dead

Guatemalan authorities warned that the Fuego volcano was showing signs of greater activity on Tuesday night as the death toll from a devastating eruption at the weekend climbed to 75 and nearly 200 people remained missing.

The seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute Insivumeh heightened its warnings after the volcano erupted again earlier on Tuesday, forcing evacuations and sending rescue workers scrambling for cover. The peak had its most devastating eruption in more than four decades on Sunday, showering ash on a wide area and sending lava flows through nearby towns.

The national disaster agency, CONRED, said 192 people remained missing after the disaster and the forensic agency, Inacif, raised the death toll to at least 75, up from 72. “The conditions are extremely critical at this moment,” Insivumeh Director Eddy Sŕnchez told reporters.

Volcan de Fuego, which means “Volcano of Fire” in Spanish, is one of several active volcanoes among 34 in the Central American country. It lies near the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site that has survived several major eruptions.

The latest activity has been mostly on the far side of the volcano, facing the Pacific coast. The eruption on Sunday sent columns of ash and smoke 6.2 miles (10 km) into the sky, dusting several regions with ash. Thousands of people have been evacuated, CONRED said.

Search operation continues

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

The search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was progressing slowly, officials 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. “We will continue until we find the last victim, though we do not know how many there are. We will probe the area as many times as necessary,” Cabanas said.

However, the prospects of finding any more survivors was poor, he said. “If you are trapped in a pyroclastic flow, it’s hard to come out of it alive,” he said, adding that people who may have been caught in the flow may never be found.

he 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 previous toll was given as 72. Some 46 people were injured, around half of whom are in serious condition, it said.

The 3,763-metre volcano erupted early Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud. 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.

he speed of the eruption took locals by surprise, and could be explained by it producing pyroclastic flows, sudden emissions of gas and rock fragments, rather than lava, said volcanologist David Rothery of Britain’s Open University.

resident Jimmy Morales, who has declared three days of national mourning, has visited the disaster zone. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply saddened by the “tragic loss of life and the significant damage caused by the eruption,” and said the UN was ready to assist national rescue and relief efforts.

Published on June 06, 2018

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