Guatemalan volcano warnings ‘came too late’

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Officials in Guatemala have admitted that they were slow to warn the public of the danger posed by the eruption of the country’s Volcano of Fire.

At least 109 people were killed when Volcan de Fuego erupted last Sunday, sending gas and rocks hurtling down the mountain at high speed, enveloping several villages.

Seismologists warned there was a possibility of pyroclastic flows eight hours before the main eruption – one of the deadliest in 500 years – but the national disaster agency Conred failed to impose mandatory evacuation orders.

Guatemala volcano: Bryan Rivera, 22 (right), is comforted as he cries while searching for relatives, victims of the Fuego Volcano eruption in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla department
Image: At least 109 people have died and close to 200 have been reported missing
Guatemala volcano: An ash-covered window in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was also flooded with hot mud that descended from the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla department
Image: Officials in Guatemala have admitted they were slow to warn of the dangers

Making matters worse, when Fuego did violently erupt, rain and clouds obscured the toxic debris as it descended down the slopes towards villages.

Guatemala’s public prosecutor says it will open an investigation into whether protocols were followed in the handling of the disaster.

Sky News was given access to the search for bodies in one of the worst hit communities, San Miguel Los Lotes, where many people are still missing.

A baby is rescued from a house in the vicinity of the Volcan de Fuego 0:30
Video: Baby rescued from volcano threat

Homes have been filed with volcanic ash, and rocks were still warm to the touch, five days after they were catapulted from the crater.

Massive boulders are being moved by excavators as the search for victims continues. Across the country, close to 200 people are still reported missing and more than 12,000 have been evacuated.

Rescue efforts have been suspended due to inclement weather, with officials still warning of falling ash.

A woman is comforted by a firefighter while mourning for her missing relatives 2:20
Video: Hopes fade for survivors in Guatemala

Insivumeh, the country’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute has advised the civil aviation authority to continue to take precautions with flights.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has raised concerns about the economic cost of the disaster.

Ash has fallen across a number of areas where agriculture is a vital industry.

Relative of missing people in Guatemala asks president for help after volcano erupts 0:56
Video: My family ‘are burning’

IFRC president Francesco Rocca said: “We should not underestimate the scale of this disaster. Critical, emergency needs are still enormous, and affected communities will need sustained and long-term support.

“We hope it will not mean a secondary disaster.”

More from Guatemala

The federation has pledged more than $253,000 (£188,679) to support rescue efforts and said those worst hit would need at least a year to recover.

The White House has said emergency aid will arrive from the US soon, including food, water and sanitation, with burn victims to be flown to Florida for treatment.

From – SkyNews

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