Ovidio García Suárez was born and raised in the shadow of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano. He has lived through plenty of volcanic activity in his 64 years, he says – but nothing like this.
On Sunday, Fuego unleashed a fast-moving mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that virtually swallowed San Miguel Los Lotes, the neighborhood in El Rodeo where García lives, transforming the landscape into a gray wasteland.
Homes are buried in ash, some of it still hot to the touch. Leaden clothes hang on clotheslines. An eery silence hangs in the air, apart from the presence of chickens that somehow managed to survive the explosion.
Volcanic rocks the size of baseballs and larger litter the ground. Melted car tires lay in puddles of rubber and twisted steel.
At least 99 have died from Fuego’s fury, and 192 are missing – including García’s wife.
García was away from his home when Fuego exploded and his daughter called him. “Mom disappeared,” she told him. His son’s wife was in the home, too, and they don’t know where she is, either. Their home was destroyed.
“Now there is nothing,” he says. “What’s the government going to do?”
‘It’s dangerous, but we go anyway’
At least 192 people are missing, Guatemala’s disaster relief agency said, and rescuers face hazardous conditions as they navigate hot, rocky debris. And Fuego might not be done yet. It expelled more rock and gas Tuesday, sending ash over 16,000 feet into the sky and temporarily halting search operations.