Survivors who went back to the village of San Miguel los Lotes on Monday morning encountered a village turned to rubble by the force of the eruption.
“My mother is buried there,” Inés López told a Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa Libre, standing amid the wreckage of his home. He was numb with grief. “What can I do to cry? My heart is hard, hard. All our family is here, buried,” he said waving his hand over the ruins.
President Jimmy Morales declared three days of mourning and toured shelters and the disaster area. As he left the buried village of El Rodeo, a weeping woman approached his van and he got out to listen.
“Mr. President, my family is missing,” the woman, Eufemia García, said, sobbing. “Send a helicopter to drop water from above because it is burning there. I have three children, a grandchild, all my brothers and sisters, my mother — more than 20 are missing.”
The volcano, which sits less than 30 miles from Guatemala City, the capital, has been erupting since 2002, according to the Global Volcanism Program. It is a stratovolcano, like Mount St. Helens, with viscous lava that allows gas pressures to build and leads to more explosive eruptions.
The intense activity began on Sunday morning, with a strong explosion shortly before noon. The volcano then continued to spew ash, rocks and gas into the air. A second powerful eruption followed at 6:45 p.m. and the activity finally subsided after 16½ hours, Guatemala’s seismology and volcanology institute said.