Flying over the Fuego volcano, ShelterBox team sees the devastation of buried villages.
‘There is basically nothing left. There are some rooftops still visible but that is all’
Eight days on from Guatemala’s worst eruption for four decades the volcanic debris still steams, and rain and heat are turning it into mudflows. 200 people may have been trapped here. ShelterBox and colleague agencies are focusing on the 1,500 homeless families now living in over 40 collective centres.
Last Thursday the rescue phase following Guatemala’s volcanic eruption was declared over. It was presumed that no one else would be found alive along the route of the pyroclastic flow on 2 June that moved at the speed of a car on a motorway.
People directly in its path had no warning and no chance. The 700°c mixture of ash, toxic gases and volcanic rocks careered at great speed down the mountain slopes engulfing villages, coffee farms and a golf resort. Now mudflows threaten a new danger, as heavy rainfall mixes with volcanic debris to form fast-flowing lahars.
ShelterBox, the international emergency shelter experts, are in Guatemala meeting with affected families, colleague aid providers and government agencies to find out whether and how ShelterBox can support the disaster response. They have aid ready to go. After the shock of the event and the deaths, attention is now on the families made homeless by Volcán de Fuego, currently housed in an estimated 40 or more official and unofficial collective centres, with little privacy, poor sanitation and only basic conditions.
Rotary International Director Jorge Au Franc accompanied the team on an aerial inspection of the affected areas by helicopter, arranged by a local Rotarian. Watch the video here. ShelterBox’s Tim Hedges said, ‘It was really quite horrendous to see the extent of the damage. Having been able to fly over the area has given us a huge insight into the potential problems that people in this area are facing.’
‘To actually see the devastation caused by the lava (pyroclastic) flow, with smoke and steam still rising, I cannot begin to imagine how horrific and how terrifying it must have been for the people when the actual eruption happened.’
‘It’s fairly localised. One of the things I guess with these flows is that they have a massive impact in the area they hit, but either side of that much less so. Unfortunately in this particular case the flow went straight through the village of Los Lotes and there is basically nothing left. There are some rooftops still visible but literally that is all.’
Tim’s colleagues include another ShelterBox team member from the UK and two ShelterBox Response Team volunteers, one from the US, and one British but based in Copenhagen. They have already visited collective centres to speak to displaced families. With so many people evacuated in a hurry across multiple sites many families have lost track of their loved ones.
NOTES TO EDITORS
• Our photos above are screenshots from this video, which is free to use in the context of this press release: Video by Tim Hedges in Guatemala.
• They show (top left) a lahar steaming mud flow, (top right) Buildings in ash
• We can also arrange skype or phone contact with team members, workload and comms allowing. Please request this via [email protected]