Time running out to find survivors of deadly Guatemala volcano

ESCUINTLA, Guatemala Search efforts continue in Guatemala after a volcanic eruption left at least 70 people dead and forced thousands from their homes.

The threat of another eruption sent people racing to safety as toxic plumes of smoke rose high in the sky. It was yet another reminder that Volcan de Fuego is not done wielding its fiery wrath after Sunday’s violent eruption spread destruction around a 12-mile radius. To understand the scope of the damage, it must be seen from above.

CBS News got a look over El Rodeo, one of the hardest hit areas, where military members are still in search and rescue mode, hoping to find survivors.

Rescuers and volunteers evacuate the disaster zone as a column of smoke and ash rises from the area where lava flowed down the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018.

Johan Ordonez / AFP/Getty Images

“There is no free access because one of the main bridges has been destroyed by the eruption,” said Col. Oscar Perez Figueroa.

Rescuers who made it to the heavily hit zone searched through mud and ash in some areas several feet high, and homes are inundated with sludge.

On Tuesday, as more volunteers headed out, a group of men waited anxiously for news of their loved ones. One man, Wilmer Marrias-Garcia, said he lost everything. Another man showed us a photo of his 7-year-old missing niece.

Funerals have already begun. Along the central square of Alotenango, mourners carried the caskets of seven victims smothered by ash, and collected funds to help families who have nothing left.  

Many of those fleeing have come just a few miles away from the billowing smoke. The continued threat of eruptions is not the only thing hampering rescue efforts. There’s also the threat of rainfall mixing with the ash and creating a toxic sludge, as officials say the 72-hour window to find survivors is starting to close.

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