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Nearly 200 missing, 73 dead in Guatemala volcano eruption

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Alotenango:Nearly 200 people are missing and at least 73 people were killed since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano began erupting over the weekend, officials said today.

Seven communities in already devastated areas were evacuated as the volcano’s activity increased, with rescue operations halted.

 

In the city of Escuintla, near the summit, panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape, causing chaotic traffic.

An AFP photographer witnessed a large plume of ash rise into the sky, prompting an evacuation of everyone authorities could find before the police, the military and rescuers were stood down.

And a total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions, disaster relief agency chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters.

The search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was progressing slowly, officials said earlier, given the nature of the terrain and the way the volcano released large amounts of boiling mud, rock and ash down the mountain.

 

“We will continue until we find the last victim, though we do not know how many there are. We will probe the area as many times as necessary,” Cabanas told AFP.

However, the prospects of finding any more survivors was poor, he said. “If you are trapped in a pyroclastic flow, it’s hard to come out of it alive,” he said, adding that people who may have been caught in the flow may never be found.

The latest of the 73 victims was a 42-year-old woman who died in hospital having lost both legs and an arm in the eruption.

The previous toll was given as 72. Some 46 people were injured, around half of whom are in serious condition, it said.

The 3,763-metre volcano erupted early Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud.