Last hopes for Guatemala’s Fuego eruption survivors focus on mountain hamlet search

Home / Last hopes for Guatemala’s Fuego eruption survivors focus on mountain hamlet search

Hopes of finding survivors of Guatemala’s El Fuego volcano’s devastating eruption three days ago are now focused on six hamlets high up the mountain where people might just have found refuge from the super-heated wall of gas, ash, and mud that hurtled down from the crater and buried two whole villages further down.

“The army is flying over the area looking for signs of life,” Mario Cruz, a spokesman for the fire brigade, told The Telegraph. “They haven’t found anybody yet.”

The official number of those missing currently stands at 192, a preliminary figure because nobody knows how many people were on the mountain when El Fuego erupted on Sunday around midday.

The death toll locally on Wednesday morning was 75, though this was expected to be revised upwards during the day. So far officials have identified about a third of the bodies recovered.

Cruz said firefighters dug up three bodies during their first hours of work in El Rodeo and San Miguel los Lotes, the two villages filled with small farmers that once nestled in the lush foothills of the volcano that were suddenly transformed into moonscapes by the eruption.

Rescue workers say it is hard to imagine how anybody caught up in the churning clouds of volcanic material that reached up to 700 degrees centigrade could have survived. It is known technically as pyroclastic flow and is more dangerous than lava because it travels much faster.

Heavy machinary is used to clear a street of debris of the Fuego Volcano eruption in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala CityCredit:
Johan Ordonez/AFP

Officials say most would have died from asphyxia. The ash and debris covering buildings would have been unlikely to leave the kind of air pockets that can sometimes keep earthquake victims alive for days.

A video posted on the website of local paper Prensa Libre showed two firefighters using spades to reach a body just visible within the wall of a two-meter pit of ash.

Guatemala's Fuego volcano eruption, in pictures

Rescue work has also been slowed by the heat still emanating from the debris in many areas.

On Wednesday, workers were using metal rods to poke into the ground to release smoke and steam before deciding where to dig. Those digging have needed to continually spray water on their shoes to avoid the soles melting.


Heavy rain last night has cooled the temperatures down somewhat but has also hardened the ash.

The Fuego volcano is still smoking, causing some locals to worry about another eruption Credit:
Johan Ordonez/AFP

The authorities have also warned that the rain has increased the danger of muddy avalanches adding more devastation to the eruption that also left dozens in hospital and thousands in shelters struggling to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones and their homes.

And all the while the volcano, among Central America’s most active, is still puffing. A warning of another eruption sparked another evacuation on Tuesday afternoon, sparking some scenes of panic.

About Author