Guatemalan authorities ‘told to evacuate SEVEN HOURS before eruption’

Guatemalan authorities ‘were warned to evacuate people away from the Volcano of Fire SEVEN HOURS before it erupted’ killing 75 people but ‘did not act’

  • Authorities were alerted that the volcano was going to blow over seven hours before the deadly eruption
  • Figures from the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction were told at 6am but failed to react until 1.45pm 
  • A total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions, disaster relief agency chief said
  • Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared: ‘Evacuate!’ 

Guatemalan authorities were warned to evacuate citizens from the danger zone surrounding a volcano more than seven hours before it erupted – it has emerged.

Local newspaper El Periodico revealed that from 6:00 am on Sunday, the National Institute of Seismology alerted the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction about the impending eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano.

During the following seven hours, until the moment of the eruption, the National Institute issued two further warnings which were not heeded.

According to the newspaper it was not until 1.45 pm, nearly eight hours later, that the Disaster Reduction Coordinator finally raised the level of alert and urged sounded the alarm for evacuations to take place.  

Nearly 200 people are missing and at least 75 have been killed since the volcano began erupting over the weekend, officials said today.

Fears of a fresh blowup are rife as explosions continued to boom around the 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano on Wednesday afternoon.

Nearly 200 people are missing and at least 75 have been killed since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano (pictured) began erupting over the weekend

A large plume of ash rose into the sky from the mountain on Tuesday afternoon and hot volcanic material began descending its south side

Rescue workers run for cover as the Volcano of Fire blows more clouds of ash in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla, Guatemala

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Officials said the known number of dead was 75, though that toll was expected to rise. 

Terrified Guatemalans living near the Volcano of Fire fled with their children and few possessions when fresh flows of super-heated debris were announced late on Tuesday.

Those living nearby were taking no chances after authorities gave villagers little time to evacuate before a deadly eruption over the weekend. Bodies of those who did not manage to escape have been discovered, covered in ash and resembling statues.

Seven communities in already devastated areas were evacuated as the volcano’s activity increased, with rescue operations halted.

In the city of Escuintla, near the summit, panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape. 

Traffic came to a standstill on choked roads and those without vehicles walked, even in central Escuintla, which was not under an evacuation order.

Businesses shut as owners fled, memories still fresh of Sunday’s blast, which left at least 75 people dead and 192 missing, and reduced a once verdant area to a moonscape of ash.

Mirna Priz wept as she sat on a rock at a crossroads, with a suitcase in front of her and her 11-year-old son, Allen, and their terrier mix Cara Sucia by her side.

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    A soldier rescues a girl from a hole in an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in Escuintla, Guatemala

    A dead cow lays in the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego, or ‘Volcano of Fire,’ in Escuintla, Guatemala, on Tuesday

    Rescue workers take a break amid volcanic ash blanketing the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala

    ‘You feel powerless,’ she said. ‘I don’t know where I’m going to go. To leave my things, everything I have.’

    But after seeing what happened on Sunday, she was afraid to stay. By Tuesday, the images of Sunday’s destruction were familiar to everyone.

    What was once a collection of green canyons, hillsides and farms was reduced to grey devastation by fast-moving avalanches of super-heated muck that roared into the tightly knit villages on the mountain’s flanks.

    A large plume of ash rose into the sky from the mountain on Tuesday afternoon and hot volcanic material began descending its south side.

    The country’s seismology and vulcanology institute said the smoke billowing from the volcano’s top could produce a ‘curtain’ of ash that could reach 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level, posing a danger to air traffic.

    It prompted an evacuation of everyone authorities could find before the police, the military and rescuers were ordered to stand down.

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      Evacuees pile onto the back of a truck to leave an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in Escuintla, Guatemala

       Businesses shut as owners fled, memories still fresh of Sunday’s blast, which left at least 75 people dead and 192 missing

      Traffic came to a standstill on choked roads and those without vehicles walked, even in central Escuintla, which was not under an evacuation order

      Displaced people take a break as they leave an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in Escuintla, Guatemala 

      Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave the area as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared: ‘Evacuate!’

      Residents evacuate after a new flow of searing hot volcanic material moved down the slopes of the Volcano of Fire

      Those living nearby were taking no chances after authorities gave them little time to evacuate before a deadly eruption over the weekend

      When the panic set off by the new evacuations became clear, disaster officials in Guatemala called for calm 

      Many walked along the side of the highway because traffic had stalled on the only road out of the disaster area

      Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave the area as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared: ‘Evacuate!’

      Among those fleeing was retiree Pantaleon Garcia, who was able to load his grandchildren into the back of a pickup with a jug of water and some food. They were heading to the homes of relatives in another town.

      ‘You have to be prepared, for the children,’ he said.

      When the panic set off by the new evacuations became clear, disaster officials called for calm.

      In the community of Magnolia, which was under the new evacuation order, residents fled carrying bags of clothing and even small dogs in their arms.

      Many walked along the side of the highway because traffic had stalled on the only road out.

      A total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions, disaster relief agency chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters.

      A firefighter carries a dog at an area affected by the eruption in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla

      View of the damage caused by the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla

      Firefighters work in the disaster zone blanketed in volcanic ash near the Volcano of Fire in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla

      Lilian Hernandez cries as she is comforted by her husband at the Mormon church that has been enabled as a shelter near Escuintla, Guatemala. She lost 36 family members in all, missing and presumed dead in the town of San Miguel Los Lotes

      The search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was progressing slowly, officials said earlier, given the nature of the terrain and the way the volcano released large amounts of boiling mud, rock and ash down the mountain.

      ‘We will continue until we find the last victim, though we do not know how many there are. We will probe the area as many times as necessary,’ Cabanas told AFP.

      However, the prospects of finding any more survivors was poor, he said.

      ‘If you are trapped in a pyroclastic flow, it’s hard to come out of it alive,’ he said, adding that people who may have been caught in the flow may never be found.

      Two days after the eruption, the terrain was still too hot in many places for rescue crews to search for bodies or – increasingly unlikely with each passing day – survivors.

      A spokesman for Guatemala’s firefighters said that once it reaches 72 hours after the eruption, there will be little chance of finding anyone alive.

      Volunteers are seen preparing food rations after Fuego volcano erupted in Alotenango, Guatemala, sparking new evacuations

      Firefighters carry a man on a stretcher near an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in Escuintla, Guatemala

      This aerial view shows the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego, or ‘Volcano of Fire,’ in Escuintla, Guatemala

      The fiery volcanic eruption in south-central Guatemala killed scores as rescuers struggled to reach people where homes and roads were charred and blanketed with ash

      Volcanic ash blankets homes and trees near the Volcan de Fuego, or ‘Volcano of Fire,’ where rescue workers gather in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla

      Rescue workers can be seen searching in El Rodeo, one of the hamlets in the disaster area near the Volcan de Fuego 

      Dead cows lie amid volcanic ash in the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego in the El Rodeo hamlet of Escuintla

      Among the latest of the 75 fatalities reported by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences was a 42-year-old woman who died in hospital having lost both legs and an arm in the eruption.

      The previous toll was given as 73. Some 46 people were injured, around half of whom are in serious condition, officials said.

      The 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano erupted early Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud.

      Authorities said more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the disaster, including more than 3,000 ordered evacuated, many living in shelters in Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango since Sunday’s eruption.

      The speed of the eruption took locals by surprise, and could be explained by it producing pyroclastic flows, sudden emissions of gas and rock fragments, rather than lava, said volcanologist David Rothery of Britain’s Open University.

      President Jimmy Morales, who has declared three days of national mourning, has visited the disaster zone.

      UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply saddened by the ‘tragic loss of life and the significant damage caused by the eruption,’ and said the UN was ready to assist national rescue and relief efforts.

      Firefighters hold rescued animals at an area affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla

      A firefighter holds a rescued hen and a dog at an area affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in San Miguel Los Lotes

      Firefighters enter the rescue area near Volcan de Fuego in Escuintla, Guatemala. People of the villages skirting Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire began mourning the few dead who could be identified after an eruption killed dozens

      First responders continue searching for survivors in El Rodeo, Guatemala, where the death toll continues to rise after the violent eruption on Sunday

      Policemen walk at an area affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla

       

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