Guatemala volcano death toll rises to 114 after 4 more bodies found

Guatemala volcano death toll rises to 114 after 4 more bodies found 

A survivor digs in the affected area after the eruption of the Fuego volcano in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala, on 11 June 2018. EFE-EPA/Santiago Billy

Guatemala City, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- Guatemalan emergency crews on Monday found four more bodies, evidently belonging to a single family who perished in the June 3 eruption of the Volcan de Fuego volcano, thanks to survivors helping with search efforts, thus raising the confirmed death toll to 114.

Conred national disaster coordinator brigades, firefighters, army troops and international experts – aided by surviving local residents – on Monday entered so-called “Ground Zero” in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes, in the southern province of Escuintla, which was buried under volcanic ash and devastated by pyroclastic flows.

Using picks and other tools, along with some heavy machinery, recovery brigades found at least four bodies in the ruins of the village and under the tons of volcanic material spewed out by the fire mountain.

The four victims located Monday appear to be members of a family who were overcome during the eruption of the volcano, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Guatemala City on the border of Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango provinces.

One of the survivors, Byron Rivera, who was helping with the search efforts, said he believed that the four bodies belong to his relatives.

The area reeks of sulfer and recent rains have hardened the pyroclastic flows of volcanic material that have moved down the mountain’s slopes.

Authorities say there is zero possibility of finding any survivors in the devastated areas.

Conred said that because of rainy conditions, search operations would be suspended on Monday but will resume on Tuesday and the Insivumeh national vulcanology institute recommended that the brigades carry out their searches only during the mornings because afternoon rains increase the chance of lahars, liquidy slides and flows of ash and other debris dislodged by the wet conditions.

Insivumeh also reported that volcanic activity within the mountain continues, including frequent and abundant emanations of ash and gas and up to nine explosions per hour, activity that is causing repeated avalanches of fine ash and other material along the southeastern flank.

The army’s engineering corps is participating in the removal of volcanic material from the roadway through the area.

Meanwhile, the government of President Jimmy Morales is looking for suitable spots to build housing for those who have lost their homes, and the Agriculture Ministry said it has found a farm on the country’s southern coast to which local small farmers whose land near the volcano has been rendered unusable will be relocated.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Carlos Soto said that the more than 4,000 people being housed in shelters are being attended to by private organizations such as the Rotary Club.