Guatemalan volcano erupts again, forcing evacuations

June 5 (UPI) — Guatemala’s Mount Fuego erupted for the second time in three days Tuesday, sending a fresh lava flow down the mountain and forcing fresh evacuations.

Rescue workers were forced to halt efforts, and hundreds of villagers were evacuated after Tuesday’s seismic activity. It prompted another pyroclastic flow — a mix of ash, rock and gases that can be more dangerous than lava — down the south side of the volcano.

The eruption comes as Guatemalan emergency officials revised the death toll from Sunday’s blast up to 75. They said that figure could increase possibly into the hundreds. Twenty-three bodies have been identified so far, according to Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences.

After Sunday’s eruption, volcanologists said there would be no more emissions for the near future.

With some areas impassible in and around the volcano, some survivors have begun to bury their loved ones while others are wondering if their families made it out alive.

“It is very, very difficult due to the fact that it’s very, very hot,” Mario Cifuentes, a volunteer firefighter, said. “The soil is very unstable. We cannot be walking around … the shoes, they’ve been completely destroyed because of the heat.”

The volcano, 25 miles from Guatemala City, has now erupted three times this year. Mount Fuego is Spanish for “mountain of fire.”

Entire towns were engulfed in thick, heavy ash after the volcano unleashed a fast-moving pyroclastic flow. At least 15 people were hospitalized, including 12 children who sustained severe burns.

Otto Mazariegos, president of the Association of Municipal and Departmental Firefighters, told The New York Times firefighters found charred remains of some who were unable to flee.

“We saw bodies totally, totally buried, like you saw in Pompeii,” Mazariegos said.

One survivor, Ines López Hernandez, told Prensa Libre his family was buried by debris.

“My mother is buried there. Now, what do I do to cry? My heart is hard, all our family is here, buried,” Hernandez said.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Consuelo Hernandez said. “We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields, and we ran toward a hill.”

In areas that are reachable for crews, protective masks are worn and construction equipment is used to navigate the dangerous conditions.

Officials said the seismic event has affected nearly 2 million people.