Rescuers frantically dig through ash after Guatemala volcano kills at least 62
Rescue workers run for cover as the Fuego volcano in Guatemala blows more clouds of ash in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla, Guatemala.(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)
Rescue workers search in El Rodeo, one of the hamlets in the disaster area near the Fuego volcano in Escuintla, Guatemala.(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)
Picture of the Fuego volcano taken from Palin, a village in Escuintla, Guatemala. Nearly 200 people are missing and at least 75 have been killed since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano began erupting over the weekend.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
View of the damage caused by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers search for victims of the Fuego volcano in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
The front door of a home blanketed in volcanic ash carries a hand-written “Help” sign in the disaster zone near the Fuego volcano in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla, Guatemala.(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)
Firefighters remove a burned corpse buried in volcanic ash in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla, Guatemala.(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)
Members of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) carry the coffin of Juan Fernando Galindo, local representative of CONRED, who died in the Fuego volcano eruption in San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala.(Santiago Billy / EPA / Shutterstock)
Mourners carry the coffins of seven people killed in the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in Alotenango, Guatemala.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
Family and friends mourn at the wake for seven victims of the eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano in the municipality of Alotenango.(Esteban Biba / EPA-Shutterstock)
Volunteer firefighters carry the coffins of two small children who died in the eruption to a morgue.(Orlando Estrada / AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer rests for a moment among ash-covered foliage during the search for survivors and bodies near the Fuego Volcano in Guatemala.(Luis Soto / Associated Press)
The Fuego Volcano puffs outs a cloud of smoke and ash in the distance as a man pulls a cart near Escuintla, Guatemala, on Tuesday.(Moises Castillo / Associated Press)
Volcán de Fuego erupts on Sunday. The volcano less than 30 miles from Guatemala City has killed at least 25 people, officials say.(Orlando Estrada / AFP/Getty Images)
Police in El Rodeo village, about 22 miles from Guatemala City, carry a man wounded in the eruption.(Noe Perez / AFP/Getty Images)
People flee El Rodeo village after the volcano’s eruption.(Noe Perez / AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer carries a baby in El Rodeo village, in Guatemala’s Escuintla department.(Noe Perez / AFP/Getty Images)
In this image taken with a long exposure, the volcano spews molten rock from its crater.(Luis Soto / Associated Press)
Residents of several communities gather in a temporary shelter in Escuintla. Rescuers were struggling to reach rural residents.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
The Fuego Volcano continues to erupt Monday as rescuers search for the missing.(Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives react as volunteers carry a coffin with the body of Sergio Vasquez on Monday in Alotenango, Guatemala.(Orlando Estrada / AFP/Getty Images)
People flee El Rodeo village, hard hit by the eruption.(Noe Perez / AFP/Getty Images)
A man in Antigua, Guatemala, shows his cap covered in ash. The runway of La Aurora International Airport had to be closed because of ash.(Esteban Biba / EPA/Shutterstock)
Rescuers frantically dug through ash in Guatemala on Monday in a desperate search for survivors of a volcanic eruption that killed dozens.
Using rescue dogs and shovels, rescuers combed through the remains of homes destroyed Sunday when cascading flows of volcanic matter erupted from Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire about 35 miles west of the capital, Guatemala City. Authorities said the volcano was unlikely to erupt again, but a massive column of ash still hung in the sky Monday, leading officials to close Guatemala’s international airport and urge residents to stay inside.
Rescuers searching the poor agricultural communities near the volcano found the bodies of the dead more often than they found survivors.
The official death toll announced by Guatemala’s disaster response agency was 62, but rescuers on the ground said the number of casualities was much higher.
In and around a single small farming town, El Rodeo, rescuers recovered 38 bodies on Monday, according to local firefighter Luis Pineda. He said they discovered just one survivor, a man who was treated for second-degree burns.
Volunteer firefighter German Padilla said there was a moment of hope when a survivor reported a cellphone communication from a person inside a home that had been in the lava’s path. But when rescuers reached the home hours later, they found the burned corpses of the entire family, including five children.
In El Rodeo, bodies wrapped in tarps and blankets lay side by side on a dirt road as survivors urgently sought information about missing loved ones.
Eufemia Garcia, 38, wandered in a daze.
She wasn’t home when the lava swept into her community, burying everything in its path, but her three children were.
“It all happened in an instant,” she said. “Not minutes, but seconds. The lava came down and swept everything away.”
Her children, all in their 20s, had not been found.
The Volcano of Fire is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes, rising 12,346 feet above sea level. The volcano also erupted earlier this year, according to a statement from Guatemala’s seismology and volcanology institute, but that eruption was not deadly.
According to the institute, the volcano shot a 3,000-foot-tall column of ash into the air this time and spewed lava that reached temperatures of 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Ash from the volcano fell on Guatemala City and in the town of Antigua, a colonial-era city popular with tourists, as burning-hot lahar — a slurry of lava, rocky debris and water — gushed down onto the communities that dot the side of the volcano. Video showed lahar slamming into and partly destroying a highway bridge.
Survivor Sofio Morales, a coffee farmer, said many coffee, bean and corn farms were destroyed by the lava.
“Everything is ruined,” he said.
Thanks to God, he said, his wife and his 10 children were safe. But as he waited at an evacuation center in El Rodeo, he worried about the future.
“The whole crop was ruined,” he said. “What are we are going to do to feed our children?”
Special correspondent Gamazo reported from El Rodeo, Guatemala, and staff writer Linthicum from Tijuana. Cecilia Sanchez in The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.
12:30 p.m.: This article has been updated with a higher death toll.
11:10 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with staff reporting, higher death toll.
This article was originally posted at 8:10 a.m.
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