The Latest: Death toll rises to 99 at Guatemala volcano
ESCUINTLA, Guatemala (AP) — The latest on the eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire (all times local):
Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences has raised the death toll from Sunday’s eruption of the Volcano of Fire to 99.
The institute said Wednesday that 28 of those recovered bodies have been identified.
The death toll had stood at 75 late Tuesday.
Rescuers resumed the search Wednesday, and Associated Press reporters saw them recovering remains. But late in the afternoon, the country’s disaster agency announced it was suspending the search again because of flows of volcanic material and falling rain.
The super-heated debris that buried victims Sunday left many bodies unrecognizable. DNA testing and other methods will be required to identify them.
Guatemala’s seismology and volcanology institute is warning of new volcanic flows on the western slope of the Volcano of Fire.
The institute warned people Wednesday to be alert and avoid the area.
It said in a statement that a so-called lahar about 30 to 40 meters (yards) wide and 4 to 5 meters (yards) high was descending through the Seca and Mineral Canyons toward the Pantaleon river.
The superheated flow of volcanic gases and mud sweeps along boulders and tree trunks.
At least 75 people have been confirmed dead as a result Sunday’s eruption of the volcano, which sent super-hot material flowing down the mountain’s sides.
Associated Press journalists in Guatemala have seen workers carrying five stretchers of human remains out of San Miguel Los Lotes near the Volcano of Fire.
The most recent official death count of 75 was reported by Guatemala’s disaster agency Tuesday night. But there have been reports of bodies recovered throughout the day Wednesday.
It is not clear how many bodies or body parts were removed from San Miguel Los Lotes on Wednesday. The remains were wrapped in bags.
The small community on the slopes of the volcano was largely destroyed when the mountain erupted Sunday, sending super-heated volcanic debris rushing down. Homes were buried to the roofline by ash and mud.
Rainfall is complicating efforts to recover bodies in villages devastated by the eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire, and some locals say many remains will never be removed.
A volcanic flow swept through El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes on Sunday, burying homes up to rooftops. Smoke from the still-hot debris below rises from holes in the hellish terrain.
Rains are now hardening the ash on the surface, making it harder to dig out bodies.
Fifty-nine-year-old truck driver Efrain Suarez is a resident of El Rodeo who had come to Los Lotes to check damage to the property of friends and family. Standing amid the wreckage on Wednesday, he said any bodies below are surely severely damaged, and if heavy machinery comes, it will tear up their remains.
In his words: “Nobody is going to be able to get them out nor say how many are buried here.”
At a shelter for people displaced by the powerful volcanic eruption in Guatemala, student stylists are volunteering to give haircuts to people who were burned the day of the disaster.
On an open-air patio at Murray D. Lincoln school in the nearby city of Escuintla, several people sat on plastic chairs covered by aprons as volunteers attended to them Wednesday.
Naomi Diaz said the volunteers wanted to pitch in because they saw that people needed help.
Diaz added that she did a cut for one woman who had several inches of her singed.
Diaz said it can be a kind of “consolation” for the displaced, many of whom will never be able to return to their homes.
Authorities in Guatemala are evaluating whether it’s safe to resume the search for survivors and the dead on the third day after a volcanic eruption devastated several small towns.
Disaster agency spokesman David de Leon says officials are analyzing the terrain to make a decision.
The area was evacuated Tuesday afternoon when a new column of smoke rose from the Volcano of Fire and officials warned of increasing activity.
Wednesday morning rescuers were concerned about possible dangers posed not only by more volcanic flows but also rain.
Authorities have said the window is closing on the chances of finding anyone else alive in the devastation.
Seventy-five deaths have been confirmed so far, a toll that is expected to rise with at least 192 said to be missing.