75 killed, 200 missing as Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupts

The death toll from eruption of Volcan de Fuego (‘volcano of fire – pictured: Credit- @ConredGuatemala ) in Guatemala has climbed to 75 with nearly 200 people still missing, National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) said.

More than 3,200 people were evacuated from around the volcano on Sunday after a river of red hot lava spewed out and thick clouds of fiery black smoke and ash rose into the sky, blanketing roads, buildings, vehicles and vegetation with soot.

Earlier reports said 25 people were killed adding that the death toll could climb as regions remained inaccessible to rescuers because of lava flow.

Authorities had been able to identify only 13 of the dead as most bodies were burnt beyond recognition, INACIF director Fanuel Garcia said.

Maximum deaths were reported from the towns of El Rodeo, Alotenago and San Miguel los Lotes. Many people were injured or dead in El Rodeo village after a river of lava overflowed swept the village, Sergio Garcia Cabanas, head of the disaster management agency (Conred), said.

At least 192 people are still missing , Cabanas  said.

It was like an oven, Antonio Lopez, a resident of El Rodeo, told the El Periodico newspaper. Domingo Lopez, another survivor, said the lava came through the door and burnt his foot.

Four people died when lava set a house on fire. Two children were burned to death while watching the eruption from a bridge, Cabanas said. A Conred employee died during rescue efforts.

Rescuers were unable to reach the La Libertad village because of lava flow. Many people may have died there.

A woman fleeing a village said lava poured through corn fields and many workers were feared to have been buried under it.

Scores of people are being treated in hospitals for burns, the health ministry said.

The ash spread throughout the country’s four administrative regions affecting 1.7 million people. It led to the closure of the runway of the capital’s La Aurora international airport. The airport reopened on Monday.

President Jimmy Morales has declared a state of emergency in Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla departments.

The National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (Insivumeh) described Sunday’s eruption as the most powerful in recent years.