Rescue workers search in El Rodeo, one of the hamlets in the disaster area near the Volcan de Fuego, or “Volcano of Fire,” in Escuintla, Guatemala, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

New evacuations near Guatemala volcano set off panic

Frightened people living near the Volcano of Fire are taking no chances

Frightened people living near the Volcano of Fire fled with their children and few possessions when fresh flows of super-heated debris were announced, taking no chances after authorities gave them little time to evacuate before a deadly eruption over the weekend.

Traffic came to a standstill on choked roads Tuesday and those without vehicles walked, even in central Escuintla, which was not under an evacuation order. Businesses shuttered as owners fled, memories still fresh of Sunday’s blast, which left at least 75 people dead and 192 missing, and reduced a once verdant area to a moonscape of ash.

RELATED: Guatemala volcano death toll up to 33

Mirna Priz, who sells tamales and chiles rellenos, wept as she sat on a rock at a crossroads, with a suitcase in front of her and her 11-year-old son, Allen, and their terrier mix Cara Sucia by her side.

“You feel powerless,” she said. “I don’t know where I’m going to go. To leave my things, everything I have.”

But after seeing what happened Sunday, she was afraid to stay.

A column of smoke rose from the mountain Tuesday afternoon and hot volcanic material began descending its south side, prompting new evacuation orders for a half dozen communities and the closure of a national highway. The country’s seismology and vulcanology institute said the smoke billowing from the volcano’s top could produce a “curtain” of ash that could reach 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level, posing a danger to air traffic.

Rescuers, police and journalists hurried to leave the area as a siren wailed and loudspeakers blared, “Evacuate!”

Among those fleeing was retiree Pantaleon Garcia, who was able to load his grandchildren into the back of a pickup with a jug of water and some food. They were heading to the homes of relatives in another town.

“You have to be prepared, for the children,” he said.

When the panic set off by the new evacuations became clear, disaster officials called for calm.

In the community of Magnolia, which was under the new evacuation order, residents fled carrying bundles, bags of clothing and even small dogs in their arms.

Many walked along the side of the highway because vehicular traffic had stalled on the only road out.

RELATED: B.C. woman seeks support for victims of volcano in Guatemala

By Tuesday the images of Sunday’s destruction were familiar to everyone. What was once a collection of green canyons, hillsides and farms was reduced to grey devastation by fast-moving avalanches of super-heated muck that roared into the tightly knit villages on the mountain’s flanks.

Two days after the eruption, the terrain was still too hot in many places for rescue crews to search for bodies or — increasingly unlikely with each passing day — survivors.

Lilian Hernandez wept as she spoke the names of aunts, uncles, cousins, her grandmother and two great-grandchildren — 36 family members in all — missing and presumed dead in the volcano’s explosion.

“My cousins Ingrid, Yomira, Paola, Jennifer, Michael, Andrea and Silvia, who was just 2 years old,” the woman said — a litany that brought into sharp relief the scope of a disaster for which the final death toll is far from clear.

A spokesman for Guatemala’s firefighters, said that once it reaches 72 hours after the eruption, there will be little chance of finding anyone alive.

At a roadblock, Joel Gonzalez complained that police wouldn’t let him through to see his family’s house in the village of San Juan Alotenango, where his 76-year-old father lay buried in ash along with four other relatives.

“They say they are going to leave them buried there, and we are not going to know if it’s really them,” the 39-year-old farmer said. “They are taking away our opportunity to say goodbye.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Music store owner named Business Leader of Year in Kelowna

Dale Wentworth of Wentworth Music to be recognized by Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Oct. 24

Interior Savings employees to help out around town

The annual Day of Difference will be held Oct. 18

Kelowna mayoral candidates stick to their election scripts

Incumbent Colin Basran touts record, challenger Tom Dyas questions Basran’s leadership

Kelowna fire snuffed out quickly

Fire crews quickly snuffed out a non-suspicious fire on Oakaview Road Monday… Continue reading

Kelowna & District Safety Council gets last minute help

City, Pushor Mitchell law firm help Kelowna & District Safety Council, $5,000 still needed.

Your morning news in 90: Oct. 16, 2018

Tune in for 90 seconds to get the top headlines for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Defence cautions against mob justice in Calgary child neglect trial

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark of Calgary have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death

Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

Internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons

Letter: Backbone organization needed to address housing in Kelowna

Renters United polled council candidates on housing strategies

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to dominate North American marijuana industry

Cannabis producers claim the U.S. is “rapidly losing” its competitive advantage to Canada

Battle resumes over speculation tax on B.C. vacant homes

Opposition calls it ‘fake’ tax that is reducing housing supply

Around the BCHL: Merritt, Chilliwack and Coquitlam early-season surprises

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s going on in the league and throughout the junior A world.

Federal government tables bill to transform prisoner segregation

Administrative and disciplinary segregation will be eliminated by Ottawa

Most Read