Thousands flee lava & ash fallout after deadly Guatemala volcano eruption (VIDEOS)
As least 25 people have been reported as killed so far – including two children who were burned to death while standing on a bridge watching the eruption unfold – and dozens have been injured, as the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) continues rescue efforts to locate those reported missing.
Most affected by the massive fall of volcanic ash were the municipalities of Sacatepéquez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla, Conred spokesman David de León said. A change of wind caused ash to descend on the capital, Guatemala City, before proceeding to eastern and northern regions of the country.
After the Volcan de Fuego discharged ash more than 10,000 meters into the air, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation was forced to suspend all incoming and outgoing flights to the La Aurora International Airport, to “guarantee the safety of passengers and aircraft.”
The army has been mobilized to support the evacuation of people affected by volcanic lava in the villages of El Rodeo, El Porvenir, Los Lotes and El Zapote. The General Directorate of Road Safety and Protection is also assisting the rescue efforts. So far, more than 3,100 people have been evacuated.
The village of El Rodeo has suffered the worst, after lava and ash reached the village. Emergency services are now treating the injuries mainly suffered from burns caused by pyroclastic flows. A number of people there also remain missing, after a river of lava overflowed its banks at the village. Cars were also swallowed up in the strong torrents.
A number of houses have been affected in the natural disaster. Authorities, meanwhile, have confirmed damage to two electrical networks and one bridge.
While President Jimmy Morales said a national emergency response in underway, people are advised to wear masks due to falling ash, to take precautions and to evacuate to safe areas if instructed by authorities. Locals are also advised to avoid river banks and to cover food and containers where water is stored for human consumption. After the eruption has finished, authorities urge the locals to clean the roofs of houses.
The volcano, meanwhile, remains active, trembling and spewing pyroclastic gases. "Currently the volcano is still rumbling and there is a greater potential for mud avalanches," Eddy Sánchez, Director of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH), told reporters at an afternoon press conference. Authorities are advising the populace to stay at least 200 meters away from currents of ash smoke and ash-infused water torrents.
As rescue efforts continue, Sergio Cabañas, the head of Conred, promised to dedicate "all the time needed to evacuate the people" from the municipalities worst hit by the eruption. Minister of the Interior Enrique Antonio Degenhart, meanwhile, told reporters that "more than 900 police officers will be deployed to provide the necessary security in the affected areas".
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