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  • Approximately 1.7 million people have been affected in Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepequez.

    Approximately 1.7 million people have been affected in Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepequez. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 June 2018

President Jimmy Morales told the public that no more eruptions from Fuego are expected, and that first responders will continue to work until everyone is found. 

In a televised address President Jimmy Morales told the traumatized population of Guatemala that by tomorrow the administration will have reconstruction plans for the areas devastated by the Sunday and Monday explosion of Fuego volcano located about 50 km west of Guatemala City.

The president had already declared a state of emergency in the departments of Chimaltenango, Escuintla, and Sacatepequez, the region hardest hit by the volcano eruption and announced that Congress has approved funding for this area.   

Morales reminded Guatemalans that the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) will be in charge of reporting on those who are found as rescue missions continue, which the head of state said will "continue to search for the missing until each is found." 

Conred raised the death toll from Sunday's Fuego volcano eruption from 38 to 62, officials said Monday afternoon. 

The volcano erupted on Sunday for the second time so far this year spewing a thick mushroom cloud of ash and lava over 10,000 meters high. Among the dead are 3 children and a Conred employee. Several people are reported dead but haven't been identified because of the severity of their mortal burns.

The president said in his Monday night address that he has visited several hospitals in the area and said that they "all have the necessary surgical materials to attend to citizens." 

So far hundreds have been injured, at least 3100 people have been evacuated, and approximately 2 million people have been affected in the departments around the volcano.

Speaking to the public the president said that ministries are still functioning and they are putting a plan in place to help rebuild homes and to support farmers who were the most heavily hit by the eruption. Morales went on to thank Conred workers who are "putting themselves at risk" and other governments, such as Mexico, for offering its support in recuperation efforts. 

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The secretary-general of (Conred), Sergio Cabañas, told a local radio station on Sunday that there was a "river of lava that went out of its channel and affected the village of El Rodeo, there are people injured, burned and deceased, the evacuation and rescue of the people is being done." 

A survivor, Eugenia Garcia Uspatan, recounted to Reuters how she left her family home to go to shops before she became trapped by the lava. Her two daughters, grandson and a son are still missing.

"I left (home) and walked along the alley to go to the shops when I suddenly realized the lava was coming down and seeping through the plots of land, the highway and down next to the water tank. It came down into the alley and up. It came right up to us. We managed to escape through the San Miguel estate. I only managed to find two children (alive) last night but my two female daughters! My grandson and my son are missing, together with my entire family!"

There are still villages that rescue workers can't reach for safety reasons. "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 Cabanas.

Local media captured video images of a woman near El Rodeo who had run from a lava flow. Consuelo Hernandez told reporters, "Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried." The death toll from this natural disaster may rise.

The eruption was originally reported by the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala (Conred), through the social network Twitter, where they indicated that this volcanic explosion was the strongest recorded in four decades, generating pyroclastic flows in several regions of the country.

"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 mudflows and nearby rivers to burst their banks," said Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala's seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute.

La Aurora International Airport, located in Guatemala City, has suspended flights due to the presence of ashes on the runway.

Images of the aftermath show people covered in coats of ash and ash flows that engulf cars and vans. The government has yet to estimate the total amount of damages due to the sudden eruption. 

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