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More Than 60 Dead in Guatemala Following Volcanic Explosion

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Rescue workers pulled at least 10 people alive from ash and mud flows around Guatemala’s Volcan de Fuego on Monday.

The country’s national disaster agency reported at least 62 people have died since the volcano exploded Sunday. Officials say the number is expected to rise.

Volcan de Fuego means Volcano of Fire in English. It is one of several active volcanoes in Guatamala. It sits 44 kilometers west of Guatemala City, the country’s capital.

Rescue workers walk on rooftops in Escuintla, Guatemala, Monday, June 4, 2018, blanketed with heavy ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego, or 'Volcano of Fire,' pictured in the background, left center. (AP Photo/Luis Soto)
Rescue workers walk on rooftops in Escuintla, Guatemala, Monday, June 4, 2018, blanketed with heavy ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego, or 'Volcano of Fire,' pictured in the background, left center. (AP Photo/Luis Soto)

The volcano sits close to Antigua, a former capital during Spanish colonial rule. The United Nations has recognized the town as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Ash fell Sunday on Guatemala City as well as nearby areas. Streets and houses in Antigua were also covered.

The explosion sent a huge cloud of ash several kilometers into the air. Extremely hot flows of ash mixed with water and debris, blocking some roads and burning homes.

Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, blows outs a thick cloud of ash, as seen from Alotenango, Guatemala, Sunday, June 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Santiago Billy)
Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, blows outs a thick cloud of ash, as seen from Alotenango, Guatemala, Sunday, June 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Santiago Billy)

The land left behind was still too hot to touch or to recover bodies from many places. In some areas, rescue workers’ shoes even melted.

Hilda Lopez said the volcanic mud flowed into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, close to the mountain. Lopez said she still does not know where her mother or sister are.

“We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the that lava was coming,' Lopez remembered. “We didn’t believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street.”

“My mother was stuck there, she couldn’t get out,” said Lopez, crying and holding her face in her hands.

In the village of El Rodeo, people said they did not learn of the danger until it was too late. Some were critical of government officials.

Rafael Letran, who lives in El Rodeo, said the disaster agency “never told us to leave. When the lava was already here they passed by in their pickup trucks telling...us to leave, but the cars did not stop to pick people up.”

Neighbors stand outside a temporary resting place for the dead near Volcan de Fuego or Volcano of Fire in Alotenango, Guatemala, Sunday, June 3, 2018.
Neighbors stand outside a temporary resting place for the dead near Volcan de Fuego or Volcano of Fire in Alotenango, Guatemala, Sunday, June 3, 2018.

The disaster agency said more than 3,200 people had left affected areas.

Volcan de Fuego is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes. The very top of it reaches a height of 3,763 meters above sea level.

The eruption on Sunday was the volcano’s most powerful explosion in more than 40 years.

Ashley Thompson adapted this story for Learning English. Her story includes information from the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

mud - n. soft, wet dirt

heritage - n. ​the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation — usually singular

site - n. the place where something (such as a building) is, was, or will be located

debris - n. ​the pieces that are left after something has been destroyed​

lava - n. ​melted rock from a volcano​to send out rocks, ash, lava, etc., in a sudden explosion​

eruption - n. a violent volcanic explosion that sends out rocks, ash, lava, etc.

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