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News > Latin America

Guatemala Volcano Search Called Off Despite 200 Unaccounted For

  • A resident sits on the rubble as people continue to search for remains of victims after the eruption

    A resident sits on the rubble as people continue to search for remains of victims after the eruption | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 June 2018

Officials have confirmed the deaths of 110 people as a result of the volcanic eruption on June 3, but another 197 people remain unaccounted for.

Authorities on Sunday called off a search for the nearly 200 people missing since Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupted earlier this month, devastating the surrounding countryside.

Thousands of Guatemalans Protest President Morales, Demand His Resignation Over Fuego Volcano Crisis

A spokesman for the government's civil protection agency, David de Leon, said the agencies involved decided to end the search "due to the fact that the area is uninhabitable and of high risk."

The volcano, which is located 35 kilometers southwest of the capital, is still generating four or five weak explosions an hour, sending a column of gray ash more than 1,000 meters into the sky.

Additionally, rains were forecast for Sunday, posing a danger of volcanic mudflows.

More than 3,600 villagers have been forced to take temporary refuge in schools and community halls.

The suspended search had been focused on the hardest-hit communities of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Recreo.

The only exception to the suspension is in the area of Alotenango, where volunteer firefighters continued to search for two comrades who went missing on the day of the disaster.

One week before, thousands took to the streets in order to protest and demand President Jimmy Morales to resign.

Guatemala's volcanology institute reported volcano activity since the early morning on Sunday and recommended the National Coordinator for the Mitigation of Disasters (Conred) evacuate the population in danger several times before the eruption, but the requests fell on deaf ears.

Just after the volcano erupted and security and rescue forces were mobilizing to aid in the situation, President Morales announced they wouldn't use “a single penny” for the emergency.

According to the Guatemalan budget law, the president can declare a “State of Public Calamity” with article 101, which would allow the government to use public money for the emergency.

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