Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire Wipes out Entire Villages as Ash, Rocks Rain Down

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(CBS News) — A disaster is unfolding in Guatemala, where the Volcano of Fire has erupted, forcing nearby residents to run for their lives with no warning. Ash and mud hot enough to melt shoes has buried homes and people. Rescuers have pulled at least 10 people to safety.

More than 62 people have been killed and the toll is expected to rise. More than 46 were hurt and more than 3,200 were evacuated.

Orange superheated gas and rocks shot into the sky and poured down the mountain reportedly wiping out entire villages. The eruption sent ash as far as 40 miles away.

In the first few hours, the ash and mud remained so hot that rescuers had a difficult time reaching victims, some of whom could be heard crying out for help. The rapidly moving mixture of gases and volcanic matter — known as pyroclastic flows — reached 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit in some places.

By the time first responders did reach them, it was often too late. Dozens were either burned to death or asphyxiated by the deadly fumes, including children.

A rapidly rising mudflow destroyed a highway bridge and sent several onlookers running for their lives, and a once-pristine nearby golf course was covered in dark gray ash and mud.

“I can see buried people hurt and the situation is very sad,” Manual Cobar said.

Eugenia Garcia Uspatan lost all but two of her family members.

“I only managed to find two children last night,” she told Reuters. “But my two female daughters, my grandson and my son are missing, together with my entire family.”

The volcano is located about 25 miles from Guatemala City and is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes. Sunday’s 16-hour long eruption was the most violent in more than a century.

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