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Scorching-hot ash from Guatamala volcano is derailing rescue efforts

Beneath the surface of the ash temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

by Kathleen Caulderwood
Jun 7 2018, 6:52pm

Nearly 200 people are still missing after Guatemala’s Fuego volcano exploded on Sunday, and survivors seeking water and shelter are causing chaos in the suburbs of Guatemala City.

On Wednesday, Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Sciences increased the death toll to 99 people. Those who fled the explosion are congregating in smaller nearby towns, but first responders say these areas are still at risk from lava flows and mudslides.

Meanwhile, rescuers face their own problems. Their efforts to find people have been paused multiple times over the last few days due to new volcanic activity, and report that below-surface temperatures can be as high as 750 to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We can only work in places where we can stand on the roofs of houses… because the ash is very hot,” 25-year-old rescuer Diego Lorenzana told Reuters. “There are places where you stick the pick axe or rod in and we see a lot of smoke coming out and fire and it’s impossible to keep digging because we could die.”

The June 3 eruption is thought to be the volcano’s most violent since the 1970s, and has affected more than 1.7 million people.