The death toll of Sunday’s eruption has reached 62 with many others still missing.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on June 5, 2018

The eruption of Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire), which propelled ash up to 10km into the sky, has ended, but hundreds of people have been reported injured and many are still unaccounted for.

The death toll currently stands at 62 but is almost certain to rise as authorities and rescue workers gain access to the remote villages near the explosion.

It was the most powerful eruption at the volcano since 1974. Pyroclastic flows (a mixture of gas, hot rock and volcanic matter) from the eruption quickly engulfed nearby communities El Rodeo and La Reunion.

Eighteen dead bodies were found in San Miguel Los Lotes, another village near the volcano.

Firefighters and members of the military are now involved in the search for missing people. Efforts to locate and rescue locals have been inhibited by lava flows moving across roadways.

The sheer speed of pyroclastic flows, which can move at hundreds of kilometres an hour, has also made this eruption particularly devastating.

CONRED (the Guatemalan government agency for natural disaster reduction) has reported that more than 3,000 people have been evacuated and more than 1.7 million have been affected by the eruption. At least 1,500 are holed up in temporary shelters.

Consuelo Hernandez, a survivor of the eruption, said in a video released by CONRED that some of her family had perished as the lava spread.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Hernandez said.

“We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields, and we ran toward a hill.”

Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology has  warned local residents that there could be further eruptions. It also said those near the affected area should be on the lookout for mudslides containing volcanic material

Volcanic ash from the eruption has also made its way to Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City, which is less than 50 kilometres from Volcán de Fuego. The ash also briefly forced the closure of La Aurora International Airport, located just south of the capital.

Guatemala is no stranger to natural disasters. Volcán de Fuego is one of 34 active volcanoes in the nation. It has also been beset by numerous major earthquakes and hurricanes.

In the wake of the unfolding tragedy, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has declared the country will observe three days of national mourning.

Header image credit: Marco Verch