At least 75 people have died and nearly 200 are missing in Guatemala after a second round of eruptions at Mount Fuego that scattered ash over a wide area and forced authorities to issue new evacuations.
Authorities said explosions from the volcano, which again streamed pyroclastic flows Tuesday, are threatening villages southeast of the mountain.
The volcano erupted first Sunday and again Tuesday, taking many by surprise as volcanologists expected the seismic activity to subside. Some of the eruptions sent an ash plume 16,000 feet into the sky.
“The conditions are extremely critical at this moment,” Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, said.
More than 3,200 people have been evacuated and about 2,000 are sheltered in Escuintla and Sacatepéquez, which together with Chimaltenango are the communities most affected.
Of the 75 confirmed dead, only 23 have been identified, including two girls between the ages of 3 and 6. At least 46 people have been injured.
“We are not only talking about what has been described as the volcano’s biggest eruption since 1974. We are talking about a tragedy, a national mourning,” Guatemala President Jimmy Morales said.
Boris Rodriguez told BBC News he lost his wife, in-laws, brother and sister-in-law and their children.
“I saw the children’s bodies,” Rodriguez said. “They were huddled together in the bed, like they were trying to hide from what was happening.”
José Alberto Miche, 18, told NBC News he lost nine members of his family.
“I felt like something bad was going to happen. I said goodbye,” Miche said, recalling his last conversation with his mother. “That was the last time I saw her.”