Volcanic Eruption in Guatemala Kills Dozens
- Elena Summers
Unlike the Hawaii volcano, which has destroyed homes with slow-moving lava, the Fuego volcano unleashed fast-moving pyroclastic flow - a nasty mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that can be much more unsafe than lava.
Charred bodies of victims laid on the steaming, ashen remnants of a pyroclastic flow as rescuers attended to badly injured victims.
It's the second time this year it has erupted.
Earlier, Conred chief Sergio Cabanas and President Jimmy Morales held a news conference, saying that the eruption left seven dead, 20 injured and affected more than 1.7 million people.
Cabanas said four people were killed in the village of El Rodeo when lava set their house on fire, and he told the Associated Press that two children burned to death on a bridge while watching the eruption.
The eruption of the 3,763-metre (12,346-foot) volcano sent ash billowing over the surrounding area, turning plants and trees grey and blanketing streets, cars and people.
Dozens of people are missing with over 2,000 more having been evacuated from the affected areas, the Noticias 4Vision broadcaster reported.
Rescue operations were suspended until 5 am local time (4.30 pm Indian time) on Sunday because of unsafe conditions and inclement weather, a spokesman for the municipal firefighters department said. It is the country's largest eruption since 1902, when an eruption of the Santa Maria volcano killed thousands of civilians.
Raw video shows Guatemalan police fleeing the rapidly expanding ash cloud from a volcanic eruption.
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In another video, a visibly exhausted woman said she had narrowly escaped as lava poured through corn fields.
"Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried", survivor Consuelo Hernandez told CNN.
Fuego has been erupting since 2002, and was continuously active in 2017.
Footage showed rescue teams working in darkness trying to enter homes to look for trapped residents, particularly the elderly.
The three-day search and rescue course in Guatemala was created to give local volunteers the necessary skills to offer immediate assistance to emergency forces in the event of a mass casualty incident in their communities or regions.
The volcano, located in south-central Guatemala, about 25 miles southwest of Guatemala City, forced at least 3,200 evacuations and closed La Aurora International Airport due to the ash emitted by the eruption.
Aviation authorities closed Guatemala City's global airport because of the danger posed to planes, but the airport was reopened at mid-morning Monday after workers cleared away ash.
Fuego, one of several active volcanoes out of 34 in the Central American country, is near the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site that has survived several volcanic eruptions. The agency described the lava as pyroclastic flow - a mixture of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas. "That could cause more mudflows and nearby rivers to burst their banks", said Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala's seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute.