Action Against Hunger responds to the Volcano de Fuego eruption in Guatemala

Guatemala Fuego Emergency : Action Against Hunger Responds as Death Toll Rises

More than 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruptions

By Action Against Hunger

Jun 8 2018

The deadly eruptions of Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano on Sunday 3rd and Tuesday 5th June has caused the destruction of many nearby villages. The official death toll has now soared to 110, and up to 200 more people are feared missing. The arrival of rainy season brings new risks of lahars and floods affecting people far beyond those uprooted by the recent eruptions.

“The atmosphere is practically unbreathable. Access to clean water and basic sanitation will be a vital humanitarian need for more than 3,200 displaced people living in temporary shelters provided by the local authorities," warns Miguel Ángel García, Country Director of Action against Hunger in Central America-Guatemala and Nicaragua.

An estimated 1.7 million people have been affected after ash columns from the catastrophic eruptions reached more than 10,000 meters above sea level, and pyroclastic flows - fast-moving mixtures of very hot gas and volcanic matter such as ash or mud - descended through deep ravines into the communities living below. 

Remote areas of the Department of Escuintla, where the eruption has hit hardest, are currently inaccessible to rescue teams due to the location and the danger posed by toxic gases, and there are growing fears for people that may have been trapped in this area.

“We are in full rainy season in Guatemala which can cause lahars - flows of ash and water that slide down from the slopes of the volcanoes,” explains García. The added threat of heavy rain falls increases the risk of this being a longer-term crisis for those now staying in temporary shelters. “Some people might have to stay for over four months,” says Ada Gaytán, Risk Reduction of Disasters for Action Against Hunger Guatemala. 

The sacle of the erruption has made it extremely difficult for humanitarian aid to access to the areas most affected.“The situation was quite chaotic in the Escuintla district. “The mix of ash with rainwater has caused heavy landslides in some areas. The landslides have in turn caused a number of rivers to burst their banks, flooding villages and towns. In some cases, we were not able to access these communities until after they were buried under the debris of the eruption” said Miguel Ángel García, Country Director for Action Against Hunger Guatemala and Nicaragua.   

The Guatemalan Government has called for international humanitarian help due to the magnitude of the disaster. 

Action Against Hunger is working to gather information, travel to the most impacted at the centre of the volcano eruption, and organise humanitarian aid. “We are deploying experts in our local and emergency teams to mobilise emergency supplies such as water. We are launching in this in the coming hours.” Explains García. 

The team on the ground will ensure access to clean water in the ten emergency shelters that have been set up. As well as providing emergency water and sanitation support, the team is preparing for floods in the coming weeks during rainy season, which could worsen the situation for the 1.7 million people affected.​

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Photos: Action Against Hunger