Guatemala volcano death toll soars as rescuers search mud and ash

A man covers his face as municipal employees sweep up ash after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano

A man covers his face as municipal employees sweep up ash after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano

At least 65 people were killed and dozens injured as Guatemala's Fuego volcano continued to erupt for the second time this year on Monday.

Ash was falling on the Guatemala City area as well as the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla, which are in south-central Guatemala around the volcano.

A view of an eruption of the Fuego volcano in Alotenango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala, 03 June 2018.

An evacuated man waits to be transferred while sitting in a police auto near Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, in El Rodeo, Guatemala, Sunday, June 3, 2018.

The volcanic eruption on Sunday spewed a river of red, hot lava and belched thick clouds of smoke almost 10,000 metres above sea level, CNN quoted the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) as saying. Guatemala's disaster agency said 3,100 people had evacuated nearby communities, and ash fall from the eruption was affecting an area with a population of about 1.7 million of the country's 15 million or so people.

The eruption sent ash billowing over the surrounding area, turning plants and trees gray and blanketing streets, cars and people. Hours later, around 4 p.m., lava began flowing down the side of the mountain. The lava flows reached temperatures of about 1,300 degrees, according to Eddy Sanchez, director of the country's seismology and volcanology institute.

"The new eruption has generated a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter in the direction of the city", the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala said in an alert.

"Not everyone was able to get out".

"We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming", the distraught woman said.

A Reuters witness near the volcano said more people had been evacuated beyond a five-mile perimeter from the site after the latest explosion. In darkness and rain, the rescue effort was ordered suspended until early morning, municipal firefighters spokesman Cecilio Chacaj said.

The death toll from a massive volcanic eruption in Guatemala has risen to over 60 people, according to officials, who warn of the potential for new eruptions and mudslides.

Rescuers have found the bodies of several more victims of an eruption at Guatemala's Volcano of Fire, and emergency workers have pulled 10 people still alive from ash drifts and mud flows.

At an ad-hoc morgue in the town of Alotenango, at least three bodies lay covered with blue sheets.

The head of Guatemala's disaster agency says 33 people are confirmed dead in the explosive eruption of the Volcano of Fire, and the toll is expected to rise further. Shelters were opened for those forced to flee.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales declared three days of national mourning in the aftermath of the eruption.

The volcano west of Guatemala City exploded Sunday, sending ash high into the sky and lava flows cascading into rural hamlets on the mountain's slopes.

The volcano is some 40 km southwest of the capital, Guatemala City, and is close to the colonial city of Antigua, which is popular with tourists and is known for its coffee plantations.

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