News

Almost 200 missing and 75 dead as Fuego Volcano erupts in Guatemala

by William Ballard

According to Guatemala’s disaster relief agency Conred, 192 people are reported missing and 75 are dead as a result of the sudden explosion of the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala, an eruption that could be seen from space.

The volcano erupted for the first time in more than four decades shortly before noon on Sunday, killing 25 people that same day. By Monday, Guatemalan officials stated that more than 3,200 people were evacuated from their homes and the number of fatalities had risen to 62, although only 13 of the dead had been identified.

Eight to Ten eruptions per hour

On Tuesday, Conred reported that superhot volcanic material was flowing down the south side of the volcano, prompting further evacuations. The country’s volcanology institute revealed that between eight and ten moderate eruptions were occurring each hour, even more shocking was that this paled in comparison to the intensity of Sunday’s big blasts from the volcano.

“We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby when one of the neighbours shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming. 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,” one victim told Al Jazeera.

A desperate search for loved ones

One mother told reporters she had not seen her daughter since the main eruption, having desperately attempted to find out what had happened to her.

“There is no pain like having to look for your child”, she told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez.

Rescuers in Guatemala have frantically been trying to save as many lives as possible since the disaster struck on Sunday. Using heavy machinery and shovels, they desperately searched for survivors and, on Monday, helicopters managed to rescue 10 people from areas hit by thick ash, mud or lava, according to Sergio Cabanas, Disaster agency chief.

Members of the Guatemalan army helped to search for victims, including in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, completely covered by ash as a result of the eruption.

Pyroclastic flow: the bigger killer in volcanic eruptions

A deadly pyroclastic flow which shot from the volcano was likely the cause of most of the deaths.

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of hot gases and volcanic matter that can reach temperatures of around 1,000 ℃ and are able to travel at speeds of up to 700 km/h. They were famously the cause of the majority of the deaths from one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in history: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

In the town of El Rodeo, homes had virtually been swallowed by ash from the nearby volcano. More remains of victims are expected to be found surrounding the town.

El Rodeo, along with other nearby towns, were buried before anyone had the chance to flee. This catastrophe is far from over for the people of Guatemala, who have faced untold horror since the Fuego Volcano’s sudden eruption on Sunday.

How you can help

If you would like to donate to help the victims of this terrible tragedy, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/cause/guatemala-volcano for a list of verified campaigns aimed at helping those affected by the eruption, which is said to be around 1.7 million people.

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