Guatemala volcano death toll rises to 62

The known death toll for the eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire has taken a sudden jump upward.

The director of Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Science says that 62 bodies have been recovered following the eruption.

Fanuel Garcia said Monday that only 13 of those bodies have so far been identified. The bodies were recovered in the hamlets of Los Lotes and El Rodeo.

The head of the country’s disaster agency had previously put the death toll at 33, but warned it would go higher.

The volcano west of Guatemala City staged and explosive eruption Sunday, burying surrounding hamlets in hot ash and mud that gave residents on the volcano’s flanks little time to escape.

Evacuate immediately

Residents living near the volcano were urged to evacuate immediately, and some in the states of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla were warned to watch out for volcanic rocks and ash.

More than 3,100 people have been evacuated while search and rescue efforts continue into the night, said Sergio García Cabañas, director of the agency. The explosion will affect 1.7 million people. .

At least 15 people have been hospitalized, including 12 children, some of whom suffered severe burns, the health ministry said.

The eruption officially ended late Sunday, according to the Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology.

“The eruption … is reaching its end with 14.763 feet of ash and weak to moderate explosions and incandescence in its crater,” it said in a statement.

But it warned there could be new eruptions, and residents in the surrounding areas should be on alert to lahars and mudslides containing volcanic material. Volcanic ash had spread in a 12-mile radius around the volcano and winds could carry the cloud even farther, officials said.

Guatemala is situated on the “Ring of Fire,” an area of intense seismic activity.

The 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) area stretches from the boundary of the Pacific Plate and the smaller plates such as the Philippine Sea plate to the Cocos and Nazca Plates that line the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Volcan de Fuego, whose name means fire, is one of Central America’s most active.

It is near the colonial city of Antigua. Sunday’s explosion rained soot over the popular tourist destination and other villages in the Sacatepéquez state, covering them in ash.

Villages south of the volcano in the Escuintla department were affected, too, Cabañas said. Lesser amounts of ash reached the capital of Guatemala City about 25 miles away, forcing the closure of its international airport. The Guatemalan army shared images of officers clearing the runway with push brooms.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed condolences and offered assistance.

“All our solidarity and support to the President Jimmy Morales and the Guatemalan people for the loss of human life after the eruption of the volcano of Fire.”

The President of El Salvador offered his condolences via Twitter and said he his country stood ready to assist its neighbor.

Israel’s Ambassador to Guatemala and the Mayor of Puerto Rico also expressed their solidarity.