On Sunday, Volcán de Fuego in Antigua, Guatemala erupted twice, once before noon and again at 6:45 p.m., killing at least 65 people. Over 3,100 people have been evacuated, and the eruption has affected 1.7 million people.
The number of missing people after the eruption was still unclear according to CONRED, Guatemala’s natural disaster commission. Ash, mud, burning rock and hot gas tumbled onto the streets, and completely covered people.
“We saw bodies totally, totally buried, like you saw in Pompeii,” said Dr. Otto Mazariegos, president of the Association of Municipal and Departmental Firefighters to The New York Times.
The nation is currently observing three days of official mourning. Later on Monday, hundreds gathered in the street as men carried the caskets of loved ones above their shoulders in a funeral procession.
“My mother’s house was buried with my entire family inside,” said a sobbing woman from the town of Los Lotes to CNN en Español. “My three sons, two daughters and my grandson. My mother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews.”
Recovery workers have had difficulty doing their jobs due to inability to breathe and the heat from the ground being so intense.
“It is very, very difficult due to the fact that it’s very hot,” said volunteer firefighter Mario Cifuentes. “The soil is very unstable. We cannot be walking around.”
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales asked for peace and unity during this time.
“We would also like to ask for your patience because we need to ensure, not only the security of our rescue workers but the integrity of those people who may still be alive,” Morales told reporters and rescue workers Monday.
Dr. Mazariegos also said the death toll is expected to rise to the hundreds, as rescue workers still have not reached sites on the south side of the volcano due to inaccessibility.