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Latin America News

Death toll from Guatemala volcanic eruption climbs as thousands flee their homes

The death toll from Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption keeps rising, and now more hazards threaten grieving residents.

Residents flee their homes near the volcano.

At least 62 people were killed after the volcano erupted Sunday, spewing a river of lava and plumes of smoke almost 6 miles into the air, said Mirna Celedon, spokeswoman for Guatemala’s Institute of Forensic Sciences. Thirteen of the dead have been identified so far.

At least 15 people have been hospitalized, including 12 children — some of whom suffered severe burns, the nation’s health ministry said.

Volcanic ash has already stretched across a 12-mile radius, and winds could carry the cloud even farther, officials said.

Survivor Consuelo Hernandez told the disaster agency some of her relatives were buried. Images from the scene showed a firefighter weeping.

“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Hernandez said in a video released by CONRED, the government agency for disaster reduction. “We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields, and we ran toward a hill.”

Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales has declared three days of national mourning.

More than 3,100 people have been evacuated and 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, according to CONRED.

Satellite footage of Fuego shows the massive dark gray eruption was visible even from space.

Authorities urged residents living near the volcano to evacuate immediately, and warned some in Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla states to watch out for volcanic rocks and ash.

Residents were told to avoid roads close to the volcano and make sure water is not contaminated.

The eruption officially ended late Sunday, said Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology.

“The eruption … is reaching its end with 14.763 feet of ash and weak-to-moderate explosions and incandescence in its crater,” it said in a statement.

But it warned there could be new eruptions, and residents in the surrounding areas should be on alert for mudslides containing volcanic material.
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Credit: CNN, https://edition.cnn.com