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News > Latin America

'Ridiculous': State News Agency Blames Guatemalans for Scale of Fuego Tragedy, Then Backtracks

  • Survivor near a temporary shelter.

    Survivor near a temporary shelter. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 June 2018

Opposition legislator Mario Taracena said officials should resign and face “penal consequences.”

La Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias (AGN), Guatemala's state news agency, ridiculously attempted to blame the inhabitants of the villages surrounding the Fuego Volcano for the scale of the disaster Thursday before backtracking and deleting the comments. 

Guatemala Volcano: 109 Dead As Rescue Efforts Suspended

According to the article published by AGN, inhabitants refused to evacuate after receiving a series of warning, a claim supported by two survivors. The report, however, stands in stark contrast to reality and widespread criticism of National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction's (CONRED) management of information leading up to the eruption. AGN promptly deleted the report after receiving backlash over its contains late Thursday.

One of the survivors featured in the report said: “some people did not want to go out and chose to lock themselves in," while another explained the area's inhabitants had learned to live with constant tremors and plumes of smoke and ash since "lava only reached a certain point… many people never thought this would happen.”

The accounts of both survivors, however, show early evacuees left the area based on personal observations without receiving official information. 


Guatemala: Head of Disaster Agency Faces Calls to Resign After Fuego Eruption

Sergio Cabanas, the national coordinator for CONRED, told the Guatemalan Congress earlier this week that Guatemala's National Seismological Volcanic and Meteorological Institute, which is in charge of monitoring volcanic activity failed to issue timely alerts. Cabanas, who has faced increasing calls for his resignation following the disaster, said this handicapped the Agency's ability to act.

The State's failure to adequately respond to the disaster and its aftermath has faced scrutiny after it was revealed that guests and staff at the luxurious hotel and golf course La Reunion received an early warning and were evacuated on time. National Seismological Volcanic and Meteorological Institute has also issued statements saying they issued the relevant warning ahead of time.

Opposition legislator Mario Taracena said Cabanas should resign and face “penal consequences.”

At least 109 people lost their lives, 197 remain missing, over 12,000 have been displaced, and 1.7 million have been affected by the natural disaster.

Fuego was still spewing smoke into the air Thursday. Officials have warned rescuers and inhabitants to stay away from the area because new pyroclastic flows are possible.

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