Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano Death Toll Rises to 99; Many Area Residents Still Missing
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Ninety-nine people are known dead and 197 others remain missing following the devastating volcanic eruption in Guatemala on Sunday morning, June 3.
Of the 99 bodies recovered so far, only 25 have been identified.
A second eruption of the Fuego volcano on Tuesday prompted authorities to issue another evacuation order and sent rescue workers “scrambling for cover,” Reuters reported.
So far, more than 1.7 million people have been affected by the strong eruptions and more than 3,000 residents near the volcano have been evacuated.
Smaller Eruptions, High Temperatures Hamper Rescue and Recovery Efforts
Subsequent smaller eruptions and the high temperatures of the lava and mud debris are making search teams' rescue and recovery efforts extremely difficult.
"The [volcanic] activity continues and the possibility of new pyroclastic flows in the next hours or days cannot be ruled out,” Guatemala’s National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) warned. “It is recommended not to remain near the affected area."
Government Opposition Wants CONRED Head Ousted
Despite the devastation and continuing threat from the Fuego volcano, opposition politicians are calling for the ouster of the head of the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), Sergio Cabañas, BBC News reported.
They say CONRED failed to heed advance warnings about Fuego’s deadly eruption, one of Central America’s most active volcanoes.
“You have a great responsibility for what happened,” Congressman Mario Taracena told Cabañas, according to WABE, the Public Broadcasting station in Atlanta. Taracena said the government should investigate whether there was criminal negligence.
CONRED Response: Communities near Fuego ‘Are Used to Living with Risk’
In response, CONRED representative Arturo Alvarado said communities near Fuego are used to living with risk and do not respond to evacuation orders.
“What arises there is a self-evacuation because they are the ones closest to the place,” Alvarado explained. “Although we have the seismic data and the bulletin, the self-evacuation is what will save your life.”
“The argument revolves around a crucial question: Was the order to evacuate given clearly and with sufficient warning before Volcano de Fuego erupted?” the BBC correspondent in Guatemala, Will Grant, explained.
INSIVUMEH insists its conscience is clear and that it issued the relevant warning in plenty of time. The Institute “claims the responsibility for any failings lies with the civil emergency authority, CONRED, which didn't then act on [INSIVUMEH’s] warnings,” Grant said.
CONRED denies any blame. The disaster relief agency says that when it did issue the alerts, they were ignored. But CONRED's Twitter feed as late as 11 A.M. on Sunday said it wasn't yet necessary to evacuate, Grant noted.