A FAMILY of Trinidadians living in Guatemala say they are scared in the aftermath of Sunday’s eruption of the Fuego volcano which has claimed the lives of more than 69 people. There were fresh eruptions yesterday and the death toll continues to rise in the Central American country.
Josanne de la Bastide, whose family has been living in Guatemala for almost 40 years, said her father Robert and other relatives were “close enough (to the volcano) to be scared and covered in inches of ash.”
Robert is the older brother of former chief justice Michael de la Bastide.
Josanne lives with her sister and two nieces in the small town of Panajechel, located 40 kilometres from the volcano, while those in her family most affected by the disaster live in Antigua – 18 kilometres from the volcano.
Robert lives near his son Luis, his wife and two daughters. Robert and Luis tried to visit a doctor out of town during the first eruption, but had to turn back because of heavy ash and rainfall.
When contacted by Newsday yesterday, Josanne said: “As we speak, there are more eruptions. Lava is now coming down from the south and the death toll is rising. It is terrifying. People are actually running for their lives. It is very much like the disaster in Hawaii. It is heartbreaking to say the least.
“It is now raining heavily. That is a big problem for mudslides. This is when you realise man has no power over nature.”
Sunday’s eruption is the deadliest recorded in Guatemala’s history.
Authorities in Guatemala estimate that 1.7 million people have been affected by the most destructive volcanic eruption in its history.
The country’s seismology and vulcanology institute says the new flow of searing hot volcanic material down the southeastern slopes of the Volcano of Fire is expected to produce a “curtain” of ash that the wind will carry to the west and northwest.
In a bulletin yesterday, the institute said the blowing ash could reach heights of about 20,000 feet above sea level. It warned civil aviation authorities to closely monitor and take precautions regarding air traffic.
Sirens from emergency vehicles filled the air yesterday as rescuers were withdrawn from the hardest hit communities because of the new eruptions.
Guatemala’s disaster agency called for calm, but after receiving little or no warning before the eruption on Sunday, many people are not taking chances.
Dozens were seen walking along roadsides carrying children or a few belongings beside paralysed traffic in parts of Escuintla township south of the volcano. Only some communities in Escuintla are under an evacuation order, but even in the more distant central Escuintla, businesses have closed and people are leaving.
Newsday attempted to reach the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs seeking information other Trinis who may be living or vacationing in Guatemala, but there was no response up to press time to an email sent.