At Guatemala volcano, search halted as death toll hits 109

Volcanic rocks are seen around destroyed houses after the eruption of the Fuego volcano

Steaming volcanic rocks are seen around destroyed houses after the eruption of the Fuego volcano Credit CARLOS JASSO REUTERS

The death toll from the eruption of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala has risen to 99 as more bodies were found Wednesday, according to Guatemala's National Forensic Sciences Institute (INACIF).

Officials said the speed and ferocity of the eruption took mountain communities by surprise, with numerous dead found in or around their homes. The official number of confirmed dead was raised by 10 to 109 in the early evening, with about 200 more believed to be missing.

The institute warned people Wednesday to be alert and avoid the area.

"Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here", Efrain Suarez, a 59-year-old truck driver helping with the rescue efforts at the devastated village of San Miguel Los Lotes, told the AP.

The hamlet of San Miguel Los Lotes, once a collection of modest homes with a road running alongside, was nearly completely buried up to rooftops. "We will have to resort to other anthropological methods and if it is possible to take DNA samples to identify them". Guatemala is also home to 16.3 million people with more than 9% of the population living below the global poverty line. Associated Press photojournalist Moises Castillo contributed from San Miguel Los Lotes.

As for the doctors here, they're all very experienced when it comes to treating burn victims and dealing with mass casualty situations.

At a shelter set up in a school in the nearby city of Escuintla, workers fastened colorful ID bracelets on the wrists of people who are among several thousand displaced by the eruption.

Naomi Diaz said the volunteers wanted to pitch in because they saw that people needed help. It is not right that they leave them there.

Thursday morning the spokesperson of the Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction, David De Leon, announced the temporary suspension of the rescue operation due to bad weather conditions.

It updated on Thursday the previous day's count of 99 victims after ten more bodies were delivered to local morgues, according to a statement on Twitter.

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