Time running out for rescue chances
SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala
Emergency crews pulled more bodies from what remained of villages devastated by the eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire on Wednesday, but time was quickly running out to find survivors as the confirmed death toll rose to 99 with nearly 200 still missing.
Thousands of people displaced by the eruption have sought refuge in shelters, many of them with dead or missing loved ones and facing an uncertain future, unable to return to homes destroyed by the volcano.
Firefighters said the chance of finding anyone alive amid the still-steaming terrain was practically nonexistent 72 hours after Sunday’s volcanic explosion. Thick gray ash covering the stricken region was hardened by rainfall, making it even more difficult to dig through the mud, rocks and debris that reached to the rooftops of homes.
“Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here,” Efrain Suarez said, standing amid the smoking holes dotting what used to be the village of San Miguel Los Lotes on the flanks of the mountain.
“The bodies are already charred,” the 59-year-old truck driver said. “And if heavy machinery comes in, they will be torn apart.”
A magnitude-5.6 earthquake struck the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano summit Wednesday, sending a plume of ash and rock about 10,000 feet into the sky. Hawaii County officials said the eruption could cause ash to fall over some populated areas, including the towns of Volcano and Pahala.
The temblor came just hours after U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said another eruption was imminent.
Increased earthquake activity in the region earlier in the day fit what Stovall called a “pattern” for explosive eruptions at Kilauea’s summit.
No tsunami was generated by the earthquake, officials said.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said there were several earthquakes at the summit early in the morning.