WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- At least 192 people are reported missing and 75 are confirmed dead after Guatemala’s Fuego volcano exploded on Sunday, according to officials.
- Tuesday’s rescue efforts were suspended when a new eruption occurred, sending hot gas and molten rock flowing down the volcano’s slopes.
- Over 1.7 million residents have been affected by Fuego’s initial eruption, with more than 3,000 people evacuated.
Guatemala’s volcano had another eruption on Tuesday, suspending rescue efforts and prompting the evacuation of hundreds of villagers and rescue workers. Fuego’s first eruption came on Sunday without a warning. Villagers had little time to escape. Villages on the slopes were buried in volcanic ash and mud.
Tuesday’s explosion was unexpected after volcanologists said Sunday’s eruption was over for the near future.
Eddy Sanchez, the chief of Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, had assured that there will be “no imminent eruption over the next few days”.
Boris Rodriguez, one of the villagers, lost his loved ones in just a single night on Sunday. His wife, his wife’s parents, his brother and sister-in-law and their children died when the volcano erupted.
“I saw the children’s bodies. They were huddled together in the bed, like they were trying to hide from what was happening,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
His neighbors had the same fate. The village of El Rodeo was almost completely wiped off the map.
Disaster Relief Agency chief Sergio Cabanas reported that 192 people were unaccounted for. He admitted that there was no evacuation alert issued before Fuego erupted on Sunday.
Cabanas said that the locals had received training in emergency procedures but because the first eruption on Sunday happened too fast, they were not able to implement it.
Fuego, which means fire in Spanish, discharged pyroclastic materials flowing down the slopes, engulfing villages.
The risk from pyroclastic flows and volcanic mudflows, known as lahars, should not be underestimated, Volcanologist Dr. Janine Krippner told the BBC.
“Fuego is a very active volcano. It has deposited quite a bit of loose volcanic material and it is also in a rain-heavy area, so when heavy rains hit the volcano that is going to be washing the deposits away into these mudflows which carry a lot of debris and rock, Dr. Krippner said.
“They are extremely dangerous and deadly as well.”
A pyroclastic flow is a fast-moving mixture of gas and volcanic material, such as pumice and ash. Such flows are a common outcome of explosive volcanic eruptions, like the Fuego event, and are extremely dangerous to populations living downrange, the BBC wrote.
Pompeii and Herculaneum, Roman towns in Italy, were buried under a thick blanket of ash after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, producing a powerful pyroclastic flow.