Guatemala’s national disaster agency CONRED said on Monday the death toll from the Fuego volcano eruption Sunday is 69. Officials said just 17 victims had been identified because the intense heat of the volcanic debris left most bodies unrecognizable.
“It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints” from the red-hot flows, said Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences. “We are going to have to resort to other methods … and if possible take DNA samples to identify them.”
Nearly 2,000 people are in shelters and more than 3,200 have been evacuated from the areas near the volcano to the west of Guatemala’s capital city, Ciudad Guatemala.
A witness near the volcano said more people had been evacuated beyond a 8-kilometer perimeter from the site after the latest explosion. One woman who said more than 20 of her relatives went missing in the tragedy begged Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who traveled to the disaster area on Monday, to find them.
The President spoke with distraught victims who lost relatives in the eruptions.
Fuego, one of several active volcanos out of 29 in Guatemala.
The eruption, on the far side of the volcano, facing the Pacific coast on Sunday sent columns of ash and vapor some 10 kilometers into the sky.
“The landscape on the volcano is totally changed, everything is totally destroyed,” government volcanologist Gustavo Chigna said on local radio.
The agency also launched an online registry of missing people.