Rescue efforts resume in Guatemala

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) — Authorities cautiously resumed search and rescue operations Wednesday in towns and villages devastated by the eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire, with time quickly running out to find any survivors.

Workers poked metal rods into the terrain to release smoke, an indication that super-hot temperatures remained below the surface three days after the volcanic explosion that killed at least 75 people. Once a verdant collection of canyons, hillsides and farms, the area was reduced to a moonscape of ash by the avalanche of fast-moving molten rock, mud, and debris.

After a drone survey, police managed to reach a farm where a home had been buried and people were believed to have been trapped inside.

At least 192 people are missing, and the death toll was sure to rise.

At the wreckage in the village of San Miguel Los Lotes near the base of the volcano, rescue crews were operating again but rain from the previous night had caused the ash to harden.

“We are analyzing the terrain,” said David de Leon, spokesman for the disaster agency Conred.

Authorities warned the rain increased the chance of muddy flows of volcanic material and other debris. A red alert remained in place for the departments of Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango.

Firefighters’ spokesman Julio Sanchez said Tuesday that 72 hours after Sunday’s eruption there will be little chance of finding anyone alive.

“We don’t rule out the possibility of some person alive, but the condition in which the homes are makes that possibility pretty unlikely,” Sanchez said, adding that some of the ash was still at temperatures between 750 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tuesday, frightened people living near the volcano fled with their children and few possessions when authorities warned of fresh flows of super-heated debris, taking no chances after they were given little time to evacuate before Sunday’s eruption.