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Guatemala volcano eruption: At least 25 dead and hundreds injured as lava river sweeps through villages

At least 25 people were killed, including three children, and hundreds injured when Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted violently on Sunday.

Volcan de Fuego, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spewed a stream of red hot lava and belched a thick plume of black smoke and ash that rained onto the capital and other regions.

The charred bodies of victims lay on the steaming, ashen remnants of a pyroclastic flow as rescuers attended to badly injured victims.

“It’s a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the Rodeo village. There are injured, burned and dead people,” Sergio Cabanas, the general secretary of Guatemala’s Conred disaster agency, said on radio.

Guatemala’s disaster agency said 3,100 people had evacuated nearby communities, and the eruption was affecting an area with a population of about 1.7 million people.

Police officers carry a wounded man after the eruption in El Rodeo village

Credit:
NOE PEREZ/ AFP

Death toll rising

“The toll was 25 dead as of 9pm,” the spokesman for Conred said.  Officials said nearly 300 people had been injured.

Shelters were opened for those forced to flee.

“Unfortunately El Rodeo was buried and we haven’t been able to reach the La Libertad village because of the lava and maybe there are people that died there too,” said Mr Cabanas.

The Fuego Volcano in eruption, seen from Alotenango municipality, about 65 km southwest of Guatemala City

Credit:
 AFP Contributor#AFP
Source: AFP

An ash-covered woman said lava poured through corn fields and she feared more had died.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Consuelo Hernandez told local news outlet Diario de Centroamerica in a video.

One British tourist said he felt “fortunate” to have escaped harm after climbing the neighbouring peak the day before .

Richard Fitz-Hugh, a backpacker from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, spoke to the Press Association from ash-covered Antigua, around 11 miles from the erupting volcano.

A soldier takes a rescued child covered with ash to a hospital after the eruption 

Credit:
 REUTERS

The 24-year-old trekked to the base camp of Acatenango, which lies around two miles from the deadly Volcan de Fuego, on Saturday.

“It was fine then, erupting as normal with lava flows but it was a lot worse today,” he said.

“We heard there were a couple of people who were coming down (from Acatenango) early this morning when it started raining small volcanic rocks up to the size of your palm.

Neighbours stand outside a temporary morgue near the volcano in Alotenango

Credit:
Luis Soto/ AP

“I don’t know anyone who has been physically harmed (on Acatenango), but obviously it wouldn’t be completely safe being up high today – I’m sort of fortunate that I did it before.”

The Foreign Office has told Britons visiting and living near the capital, the city of Antigua and areas near the volcano to keep up to date with local officials’ advice.

State of emergency

President Jimmy Morales said he had convened his ministers and was considering declaring a state of emergency in the departments of Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepequez.

Police officers work in El Rodeo village

Credit:
AFP

Steaming lava flowed down the streets of the village of El Rodeo as emergency crews entered homes in search of trapped residents, a video on a different local media outlet showed.

“Currently the volcano continues to erupt and there exists a high potential for (pyroclastic) avalanches of debris,” the disaster agency said via Twitter, quoting Sanchez, the director of the seismology and volcanology institute.

The eruption forced the Guatemala City’s La Aurora international airport to shut down its only runway due to the presence of volcanic ash and to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala’s civil aviation authority said in a Tweet.

The volcano is located 25 miles  southwest of the capital Guatemala City and is close to the colonial city of Antigua, popular with tourists and known for its coffee plantations.

Thousands evacuated

Workers and guests were evacuated from the La Reunion golf club near Antigua. Video footage showed a black cloud of ash rising from just beyond the golf club. The lava river was running on the other side of the volcano.

“Temperatures in the pyroclastic flow can exceed 700 degrees (Celsius) and volcanic ash can rain down on a 15 kilometer (9.32 miles) radius. That could cause more mud flows and nearby rivers to burst their banks,” said Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute.

The huge plumes of smoke that could be seen from various parts of the country and the ash that fell in four of Guatemala’s departments caused alarm among residents.

David de Leon, spokesman for the National Disaster Prevention Authority said a change in wind was to blame for the volcanic ash falling on parts of the capital.

The conical Volcan de Fuego,  Spanish for “volcano of fire,” reaches an altitude of 12,346 feet above sea level at its peak. 

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/04/guatemala-volcano-eruption-several-dead-fuego-spews-ash-across/

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