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Guatemala earthquake death toll leaps to 62 as rescuers hunt for survivors

The death toll from Guatemala's volcano eruption has leapt to at least 62, as rescuers hunted for possible survivors beneath rivers of ash and mud, and braced for the number of fatalities to rise yet higher.

The director of Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Science announced the new figure, increasing the number of killed by the eruption of the nation’s Volcano of Fire from 33. The official, Fanuel Garcia said only 13 of those bodies have so far been identified, and that the remains that had been recovered were discovered in the hamlets of Los Lotes and El Rodeo. 

Another official said Sunday’s eruption triggered floods of fast-moving mixtures of very hot gas and volcanic - known as pyroclastic flows, that buried surrounding villages and residents had little time to try and escape.

“It’s a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village,” Sergio Cabanas, head of Guatemala's disaster agency Conred, told the Associated Press. “There are injured, burned and dead people.”

He said four people had died when lava set a house on fire and two children were killed while standing on a bridge watching the eruption. A total of two million people had been affected, he added.

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