'Nobody is left': Guatemala volcano ravaged entire families
ESCUINTLA, Guatemala (AP) — Lilian Hernandez wept as she spoke the names of aunts, uncles, cousins, her grandmother and two great-grandchildren — 36 family members in all – missing and presumed dead in the explosion of Guatemala's Volcano of Fire.
"My cousins Ingrid, Yomira, Paola, Jennifer, Michael, Andrea and Silvia, who was just 2-years-old," the distraught woman said – a litany that brought into sharp relief the scope of a disaster for which the final death toll is far from clear.
What was once a collection of verdant canyons, hillsides and farms resembled a moonscape of ash, rock and debris today in the aftermath of the fast-moving avalanche of super-heated muck that roared into the tightly knit villages on the mountain's flanks, devastating entire families.
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.
By afternoon a new column of smoke was rising from the mountain and Guatemala's disaster agency said volcanic material was descending its south side, prompting an evacuation order and the closure of a nearby national highway. Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave the area as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared, "Evacuate!"
The new evacuation order set off a panic even in areas that were not under it. Dozens of people could be seen walking down roadsides carrying children or a few belongings beside paralyzed traffic in parts of Escuintla township south of the volcano.