Death toll from Guatemala volcano rises by dozens

  • 05/06/2018

In Guatemala, rescuers say whole communities have been wiped out by the sudden arrival of lava and ultra-hot gases coming from an erupting volcano.

The volcano is only about 40 kilometres from the capital, and at least 62 adults and children have been incinerated by the super-hot material spewing out.

Volcan de Fuego, which translates in English to 'Volcano of Fire', spewed an 8km stream of red hot lava and belched a thick plume of black smoke and ash that rained onto the capital and other regions.

The charred bodies of victims lay on the steaming, ashen remnants of a pyroclastic flow, as rescuers attended to badly injured victims in the aftermath of the eruption.

It was the 3763-metre volcano's second eruption this year.

"It's a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village. There are injured, burned and dead people," Sergio Cabanas, the general secretary of Guatemala's CONRED national disaster management agency, said on radio.

Officials said the dead were so far all concentrated in three towns: El Rodeo, Alotenango and San Miguel los Lotes.

Dozens of videos were popping up on social media and local TV, depicting the extent of devastation.

In one, a visibly exhausted woman said she had narrowly escaped as lava poured through corn fields. Steaming lava flowed down the streets of a village as emergency crews entered homes in search of trapped residents.

President Jimmy Morales said he had convened his ministers and was considering declaring a state of emergency in the departments of Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepequez.

The eruption forced the Guatemala City's La Aurora international airport to shut down its only runway due to the presence of volcanic ash and to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala's civil aviation authority said in a tweet.

Newshub/Reuters