Some 75 people have died and nearly 200 people are missing in Guatemala after a seismic eruption of the Fuego volcano outside Guatemala City on Sunday, according to reports.
The event on Sunday was the country’s deadliest eruption in over a century, as the volcano, located 25 miles south-west of the capital Guatemala City, erupted and flooded its surrounding areas with lava and thick clouds of ash that reached nearly six miles into the sky.
The blast produced what are known as pyroclastic flows, a potent mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that buried local towns such as El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes.
Eye-catching footage broadcast around the world showed enormous clouds of ash engulfing streets as civilians watched on or tried to escape.
Wild footage shows Guatemala’s “volcano of fire” sending 5-mile stream of deadly lava through streets. pic.twitter.com/MsMt4wEp8v
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) June 4, 2018
On Tuesday, the volcano produced a second eruption that dispelled hot gas and molten rock down its southern side, thus hampering rescue efforts.
According to CONRED, a total of 1.7 million people have been affected by the incident, while 3000 people were forced to evacuate.
“The conditions are extremely critical at this moment,” said the head of Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Eddy Sanchez, adding that they do not there will be “no imminent eruption over the next few days.”
One of the volcano’s victims, Boris Rodríguez, told the BBC how the eruption had wiped out most of his family in a single day, including his wife, her parents and her siblings, and their children.
“I saw the children’s bodies,” he said. “They were huddled together in the bed, like they were trying to hide from what was happening.”
Local resident Eva Ascón also told CNN how she was losing hope that her loved ones near the eruption had survived, and said she would plead with rescue workers to “give us time to identify the bodies in the morgue.”
“Even if there are only small bones of my people, I want them,” she said. “I don’t have even one member of my family.”
The volcano, named the Volcán de Fuego (Fire Volcano), is one of Latin America’s largest and most active volcanos, with an altitude of 12,346 feet above sea level at its peak.
Volcán de Fuego has frequently erupted in recent years, but all cases have left comparatively small damage. Sunday’s eruption is the country’s largest since 1902 when an explosion from the Santa Maria volcano killed thousands of people.