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Guatemala volcano: Death toll reaches at least 62 after Fuego erupts

Rescuers have pulled survivors and bodies from the charred aftermath of the powerful eruption of Guatemala's Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, with the death toll rose to 62 and set to increase.

The head of of Guatemala's National Forensic Sciences Institute reported the latest death toll, after the volcano erupted on Sunday, engulfing homes in three villages in the central American country and cutting off several communities from aid.

The disaster caught residents of remote mountain hamlets off guard, with little or no time to flee to safety and whole villages remain unaccounted for. Thirteen of the victims have so far been identified, with hundreds of others left injured..

As Guatemalan authorities dealt with rescue operations Israel said it had delivered food, blankets and medicine through its embassy.

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Welcome to our live coverage of the rescue effort in Guatemala, where a volcanic eruption has killed at least 25 people.

Our full story is here:

Earlier on Monday, Guatemala's government announced three nationwide days of mourning for the "irreparable" loss of life caused by the eruption.

Municipal authorities in Guatemala City, where ash from the Volcán de Fuego has also fallen, have issued advice to residents.

People should cover guttering and drain pipes on their houses, and clean off any ash by dampening it first. If they must go outside, they should cover their mouth and nose, the city said.

According to Guatemala's disaster relief agency, more than 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption. And 3,265 have been helped and evacuated from affected areas.

A new explosion and pyroclastic flow have been reported by Guatemala's disaster agency, it has been reported.

The Guatemalan government has released this video of the affected area in the aftermath of Sunday's eruption:

The army has been ordered into areas affected by the eruptions to help with rescue efforts, the Guatemalan government has said.

Seismic activity is diminishing in the area around the Volcan de Fuego, Guatemala's National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology has said.

Following the volcano's second eruption of the year, it is now producing between five and seven explosions per hour, varying in intensity from weak, to moderate, to strong.

"Abundant" ash clouds reach some 15,000ft into the air, the institute said.

The death toll from Sunday's eruption has increased to 38, Guatemala's disaster agency said. Two million people have been affected.

In the Guatemalan village of El Rodeo, heavily armed soldiers wearing blue masks to ward off the dust are standing guard over a community hit by a volcanic eruption that has killed at least 38 people.


Some locals say they did not learn of the danger until it was upon them. 


El Rodeo resident Rafael Letran said the country's disaster agency sent pickup trucks with workers "yelling at people to leave".

 
But by that time, he said, "the lava was already here".

 
A group of residents arrived at the scene of the lava flow on Monday with shovels and work boots to help the search for survivors and victims.

​AP

A 5.2-magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Guatemala, the US Geological Survey has said.

According to the agency it happened shortly after 3pm UK, or 9am in Central America.

It struck at a depth of 10km.

Reuters provides more information about the latest eruptions:

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A hot flow of mud, ash and gas swept down from Guatemala's Fuego volcano on Monday, after a new explosion in the morning interrupted disaster workers pulling bodies from the brown sludge known as a pyroclastic flow that engulfed the village of El Rodeo.


The morning eruption also halted rescue efforts on the southern slopes of Fuego, Spanish for "fire".

The national disaster agency raised the death toll to 38 from 25 on Sunday, but it was unclear whether more bodies had been found or whether more people died in Monday's eruption.


The day after the volcano's eruption, its biggest in more than four decades, residents in the capital Guatemala City woke to sweep ash from rooftops and streets. Technicians assessed whether the runway at the international airport was clear enough to restart commercial flights.


"The landscape on the volcano is totally changed, everything is totally destroyed," government volcanologist Gustavo Chigna said on local radio.


A Reuters witness near the volcano said more people had been evacuated beyond a 5-mile perimeter from the site after the new explosion.


Fuego, one of several active volcanoes in the Central American country, is near the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site that has survived several volcanic eruptions.

The latest activity from Fuego is mostly on the far side of the volcano, facing the Pacific coast.

Reuters

Among those killed in the eruption was a disaster agency official, who died when lava set fire to the house he was in, National Disaster Co-ordinator Sergio Cabanas has said.

Two children were also killed while watching the eruption from a bridge, Mr Cabanas added.

Guatemala City's international airport has resumed operations after closing in the wake of the volcano's eruption.

Operations at the La Aurora airport resumed on Monday after volcanic ash was cleared from the runway, according to a statement from the General Directorate of Civil Aviation. Passengers affected by the airport's closure on Sunday were encouraged to contact their airlines about rescheduling.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has said he is "deeply saddened" by the deaths in Guatemala. 

The UN stood ready to support national rescue and relief efforts, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement. 

Mr Guterres "extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Guatemala," Mr Dujarric said. "He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured."

The head of Guatemala's disaster agency has now said that 33 people are confirmed dead in the eruption, with the toll expected to rise further, according to the Associated Press.

Sergio Cabanas said 10 people had been rescued from ash, mud or lava by helicopters. 

The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction says that an estimated 1.7m people have now been affected by the volcano

This tweet is from the official feed of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction

US authorities have released a statement in Spanish from secretary of state Mike Pompeo, which says: "I want to express our solidarity with the people of Guatemala and express our condolences to the victims of the volcanic eruption on Sunday."

Bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues, and rescuers were forced to use sledgehammers to break through the roofs of houses buried in debris up to their rooflines to try to see if anyone was trapped inside. 

“It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints” from the red-hot flows, Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences said. “We are going to have to resort to other methods ... and if possible take DNA samples to identify them.” 

Guatemalan authorities say they had been closely monitoring the Volcano of Fire, one of Central America's most active, after activity picked up around 6am Sunday. 

The volcano has registered a number of minor eruptions over the years, and no evacuations were ordered as scientific experts reported the activity was decreasing. 

Guatemala's disaster agency, Conred, issued a number of standard precautions, advising people to wear protective face masks, clean their rooftops of ash once the eruption was over and cover any food and water intended for human consumption. It also said to heed any recommendations from authorities. Guatemala City's international airport was closed due to the danger to planes. 

Conred spokesman David de Leon said that around 2pm the volcano registered a new, more powerful explosion. 

Soon, searing flows of lava, ash and rock mixed with water and debris were gushing down the volcano's flanks, blocking roads and burning homes. 

“It travelled much faster. It arrived in communities right when the evacuation alerts were being sent out,” de Leon said. 

Authorities scrambled to issue an evacuation order. Some communities emptied out safely. But in places like Los Lotes and the village of El Rodeo, about eight miles downslope from the crater, it was too late for many. 

Associated Press

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