Guatemala volcano: Rain hampers rescues as death toll climbs | News | DW | 07.06.2018
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Guatemala volcano: Rain hampers rescues as death toll climbs

Rescuers in Guatemala have been hindered in their rescue efforts as a downpour made for treacherous conditions below the Fuego volcano. Officials said the death toll has mounted to over 100.

Almost 200 people were still listed as missing on Thursday, as rescuers had to cut short efforts when a downpour raised fears of mudslides.

At least 109 people were reported dead by Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Sciences — most of them unidentified — up from 75 the previous day.

Boiling water flowed down the volcano slopes, with search teams only able to operate with shovels and heavy equipment between stoppages. Meanwhile, experts warned that the deluge could provoke avalanches due to volcanic mudflows known as lahars.

Volcanologists recorded several explosions per hour on Wednesday, as the volcano generated a new 4,700-meter (15,500-foot) column of gray ash.

"The explosions are generating moderate avalanches that have an approximate distance of 800 to 1,000 meters," the country's vulcanology institute said.

Criticism of preparedness

The institute said the lahars could sweep down the mountain gathering concrete, large rocks and tree trunks. Meanwhile, there was the even bigger danger of superheated pyroclastic materials being unleashed.

Read more: Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupts, killing scores

"The activity continues and the possibility of new pyroclastic flows in the next hours or days cannot be ruled out, so it is recommended not to remain near the affected area," the institute said.

On its website, the national disaster agency Conred reported that more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the disaster. Conred's director, Sergio Garcia Cabanas, came under criticism from opposition politicians for "not having acted" in time to prevent the scale of loss.

Superheated volcanic material devastated small communities on the fringes of the volcano when it erupted on Sunday, with the severity taking many residents by surprise.

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rc/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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