Guatemala: volcano search and recovery effort suspended with 200 still missing

Funeral procession

That's the length of time officials had said earlier that some victims might have survived. The resort was immediately evacuated following Sunday's eruption.

Even as search and recovery efforts were suspended for a second day amid risky new volcanic flows and dwindling hopes of finding survivors, about 15 forensic experts worked at a makeshift morgue in a warehouse in the southern city of Escuintla.

Rescuers poked metal rods into the ground, sending clouds of smoke pouring into the air in a sign of the super-hot temperatures still remaining below the surface, which firefighters said reached as high as 750 to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (400 to 700 degrees Celsius) in some places.

"The activity continues and the possibility of new pyroclastic flows in the next hours or days can not be ruled out, so it is recommended not to remain near the affected area", the national institute for seismology and volcanology said. Rainfall has turned the huge ash field into a hard, concrete-like terrain, and residents are increasingly convinced that those bodies still buried will never be recovered.

The new evacuation order set off a panic even in areas that were not under it. Dozens of people could be seen walking down roadsides carrying children or a few belongings beside paralyzed traffic in parts of Escuintla township south of the volcano. Some 100 people were killed and 200 others were still missing on Thursday.

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Hernandez was talking to his father, Margarito Hernandez, on the phone when millions of tons of volcanic ash tore through San Miguel Los Lotes, a hamlet sitting on the volcano's slope.

Rescue teams have been searching frantically for survivors and victims in the ravaged landscape, which is covered in ash and lava. It is one of Central America's most active volcanoes. After a cellphone call to Castillo's brother, rescuers arrived and took the family to safety. "They are taking away our opportunity to say goodbye". Recovery efforts have been suspended. There are many people who are helping us, but we have absolutely nothing.

"We already have data with names and locations where there are missing persons and that number is 192", said Sergio Cabanas, head of Guatemala's disaster management agency. "And we also know from experience that the outcomes can be much better than people expect from the get go", Dr. Steven E. Wolf, chief of staff at Shriners Hospital for Children-Galveston, said Thursday morning.

But 99 per cent of natural disaster problems happen in poor, informally built communities, Godoy said, and one complicating factor for towns like Los Lotes is that they have existed for decades.

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