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Death toll from Guatemala volcano eruption climbs to 99

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Death toll from Guatemala volcano eruption climbs to 99

Death toll from Guatemala volcano eruption climbs to 99

A total of 99 bodies have been recovered after the massive eruption of Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire, local forensic authorities said late Wednesday.

The National Forensic Sciences Institute said that 190 people were still missing and that 24 further bodies had now been identified. The death toll had previously stood at 83.

Rescuers said earlier they discovered eight more bodies including four found in the rubble of a house and human remains discovered in a gully through which burning hot gas and volcanic matter had passed.

The newspaper Prensa Libre reported that an 88-year-old man, who had suffered severe burns, was among those killed.

Concepcion Hernandez, who had burns on half of his body, died in hospital after suffering a kidney failure, the paper reported.

Hernandez, who had been pictured covered with dust sitting desolately on the side of a destroyed road, was one of the best-known victims of the tragedy.

About 12,000 people have been evacuated, according to official figures, as rescuers continued to search for more victims around the 3,763-metre volcano, situated about 70 kilometres south-west of Guatemala City.

The army said it was assisting rescuers and bringing survivors foodstuffs by air and over land.

Houses, streets and trees were coloured grey in the area where rescuers have over the span of several days unearthed the ash-covered bodies of people who burned to death or died after inhaling poisonous gases.

Eddy Sanchez, director of the National Institute of Seismology, described the eruptive activity as the strongest in years. The flows of ash, gas, rock and lava could reach temperatures of up to 400 degrees celsius, he warned.

The volcano had lost a lot energy, Sanchez said, but “weaker explosions can release flows of hot gases that can go down … and cause victims.”

The disaster management agency CONRED tweeted that volcanic “activity continues” and that it did not exclude “a new downflow of pyroclastic material … in the coming hours or days.”

Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, first erupted on Sunday, spewing fast-flowing molten lava and hot ash that sent residents fleeing for their lives.

On Tuesday, a new explosion unleashed lava on its southern flank, forcing rescuers to temporarily suspend the search for victims.

CONRED meanwhile came under criticism from experts who accused it of having taken too long to evacuate areas at risk. It ignored three warnings that the volcano was about to erupt, according to experts quoted by the daily El Periodico.

The US Air Force later said it will transport six injured children to the United States for medical treatment.

A team of aeromedical evacuation, paediatric intensive care and burn-victim treatment specialists will accompany the children and their guardians to a hospital in Galveston, Texas, according to the statement.

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