Landslide threat forces suspension of Guatemala volcano search

Volcanic rocks are seen around destroyed houses after the eruption of the Fuego volcano

Steaming volcanic rocks are seen around destroyed houses after the eruption of the Fuego volcano Credit CARLOS JASSO REUTERS

Guatemalan prosecutors have ordered an investigation into whether evacuation protocols were followed properly in Sunday's deadly volcanic eruption, which caught many residents unaware and with little to no time to evacuate.

Rescue efforts in eruption zone suspended citing danger to workers; chances of finding anyone alive in still-steaming terrain nearly nil.

Opposition politicians in Guatemala are calling on Sergio Cabanas, the national coordinator for the Disaster Reduction agency, or Conred, to step down accusing him of failing to heed early warnings about a possible eruption at the Fuego volcano ahead of Sunday's disaster. "They did not care and they did not take precautions".

Troublesome downpours and more volcanic activity had been hindering searches, but when teams have been able to work in the hardest hit areas, the death toll has continued to tick upward. Only 28 of the total had been identified. But late in the afternoon, the country's disaster agency announced it was suspending the search again because of flows of volcanic material and falling rain.

Guatemala's national disaster management agency, CONRED, said 1.7 million people have been affected by the volcanic eruption and over 12,000 have been evacuated.

Efforts were cut short Wednesday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides.

Fuego, or "Fire" in Spanish, lies about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the capital, Guatemala City, near the picturesque colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site. "And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart".

All the kids were severely burned from hot ash clouds that spewed out of the volcano.

Naomi Diaz said the volunteers wanted to pitch in because they saw that people needed help.

In past disasters in which authorities determined there was no chance of finding survivors and further efforts to recover bodies would be too hard, areas have been declared burial sites, the final resting place of the victims.

It is not clear how many bodies or body parts were removed from San Miguel Los Lotes on Wednesday.

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