Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Guatemala volcano still brewing as search for victims continues

Photo shows a view of the Fuego volcano from Yepocapa, Guatemala, 10 June 2018. The strong eruption of the volcano and the constant volcanic activity has affected some 1.7 million people, 12,407 were evacuated, 7,393 transferred to hospitals, 4,137 are living in shelters, 197 are reported missing and 58 were injured, according to data from the relief agencies. EFE/Santiago Billy

Guatemala City, Jun 10 (EFE).- The violent eruption of the Volcan del Fuego volcano last weekend, the death toll for which currently stands at 110, is keeping Guatemala on the highest alert level since activity within the fire mountain is not subsiding, while rescue and recovery brigades have resumed scouring the area for more victims.

The volcano, located 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Guatemala City on the mutual border of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla provinces, greeted the dawn on Sunday with an average of nine explosions per hour.

According to the Insuvimeh vulcanology institute, in recent days the volcano has produced lahars and pyroclastic flows along with thick columns of smoke and gases reaching as high as 4,800 meters (about 15,800 feet).

The institute said that the ongoing explosions within the crater are producing ash that is falling on the communities of San Pedro Yepocapa, Santa Sofia, El Porvenir and Sangre de Cristo.

Civil protection authorities have warned of new pyroclastic flows of lava and superheated gases, the largest of which so far was registered on Saturday.

Insivumeh experts made an overflight of the slopes of the volcano to verify current conditions there, but they have not yet issued a report on their findings.

Meanwhile, army and volunteer fire brigades on Sunday resumed search operations for more victims, given that there are about 200 people known to be missing in the area of the volcano.

The Conred national disaster coordinator said that recovery work has resumed in the town of Alotenango now that weather conditions permit, although searches were officially suspended last Thursday due to very rainy weather and in accord with the international protocol that searches must remain in effect for 72 hours in situations like this to allow time to find people who might have been buried in the ruins of their homes but remain alive.

The possibility of finding survivors now, however, is practically zero, given the time that has passed since the eruption.

The army’s corps of engineers, meanwhile, began work to clean the El Gobernador River in the village of Santa Sofia, which was seriously affected by lahars, liquid flows of soot and other debris.

Thousands of Guatemalans on Saturday called for the resignation of President Jimmy Morales due to what they said is the “ineptitude” and “inability” of his administration in dealing with the emergency and appropriately attending to the people who have been affected.