Rescuers prepared to flee at any time as Guatemala volcano smolders
El Rodeo, Guatemala (CNN) Firefighter Rigoberto Ramirez had a lot to worry about as he prepared Wednesday to search for more people buried or trapped by rock and ash from Guatemala’s Fuego volcano.
Up a hill was El Rodeo, a town where ash has virtually swallowed homes since Sunday’s deadly eruption of the nearby volcano. At least 75 people have died, authorities said, and more remains are expected to be found around El Rodeo.
Ramirez expressed optimism about finding someone alive.
“There’s hope,” he said. “But it’s dangerous for us to go up there. Water has been trapped under the ash and vapors could come out any time.
“It’s dangerous, but we go anyway.”
The Fuego volcano on Sunday unleashed fast-moving pyroclastic flow — a nasty mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases — that buried nearby towns such as El Rodeo before many could flee.
And Fuego might not be done. It expelled more rock and gas Tuesday, sending ash over 16,000 feet into the sky and temporarily halting search operations. More pyroclastic flow is possible in the coming days, the country’s disaster relief agency said.
Near El Rodeo, searchers see signs of rushed attempts at flight. A red truck full of possessions, including a refrigerator, rests abandoned, its tires melted to the ground. Some of the ash still is hot to the touch.
‘We were covered in ashes’
Near the town of San Miguel Los Lotes, Miriam Juarez and her husband, Jose Amigar, waited Wednesday near a cordoned area, hoping authorities would let them pass so they could retrieve some belongings.
They said they ran Sunday after one of their children urged them to flee.
“It was this dark smoke, very dark and it just got bigger. We ran, and (by) the time we reached this area, we were covered in ashes,” Juarez recalled.
They and their four children have been staying at a shelter in the city of Escuintla. Frustration was building Wednesday as officials still wouldn’t let the couple go near their home of more than 25 years.
“It’s our house … and they won’t let us up there,” Amigar said, with tears in his eyes. “They say it’s for our safety, but they never cared when we lived there.”