Volcán de Fuego - Update from Guatemala

An update post-eruption of  Volcán de Fuego
Written By: Alyssa Yamamoto, Hiptipico Founder
June 24, 2018 
@alyssaya | www.hiptipico.com



Volcán de Fuego 

Meaning "volcano of fire" in Spanish, it is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America, and is located just 27 miles from the capital, Guatemala City. 

Pyroclastic Flow

A high-density mixture of hot, fragmented solids and expanding gases. These heavier-than-air flows race down the sides of a volcano much like an avalanche.


A violent type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley.


The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala is an entity created to prevent disasters or reduce their impact on society, and coordinate disaster relief efforts.  

June 3, 2018
Volcán de Fuego erupted the most powerful in recent years. Pyroclastic flows engulfed entire communities and falling ash forced the city’s airport to suspend operations. 
June 6, 2018
Rescue workers were ordered to evacuate the area due to fear of another eruption.
The chance of finding additional survivors in the affected area is also dwindling, according to CONRED spokesperson Juan Sanchez.
June 10, 2018
Drone footage shows aerial view of the eruption's aftermath. 
Thousands protested for President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales' resignation due to the government's incompetent management of the tragic volcano eruption. Student lead protestors say President Jimmy Morales lied about emergency funds while the disaster agency failed to evacuate communities despite warnings.


June 17, 2018
Just two weeks after the eruption, the authorities in Guatemala officially suspended the search for victims.
REUTERS published an article with their official report. Written by a Guatemalan journalist using statistics just from the CONRED these are the official numbers of deceased, displaced and missing people:
57 injured
110 deceased
197 missing
3613 in shelters
1,714,387 affected


June 13 - June 17 Alyssa Visits Affected Areas

It was exactly this day - June 17th that I personally visited ground zero. Having the opportunity to speak with survivors and rescue workers personally, I know the most recently reported facts are not accurate. And I also know here on the ground, the Guatemalan community as a whole is not at all satisfied with these reports.


“Most of us know the numbers are so much higher. Just go to ground zero and talk to rescue workers or anyone in the shelters. Just talking to survivors - we know that it is not true. Reuters taking figures from CONRED? It's like asking the president about the country.”
Sofia Letona | Photographer and Guatemalan Relief Worker @neusminnaar | Origin: Antigua, Sacatepequez, Guatemala


“We are working with 48 families of the lots and they say that there are at least 400 people that have been buried.”
Ricardo Armas | Founder of Project Genesis and Guatemalan Relief Worker
@projectgenesis_guatemala | Origin: Jocotenango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala



While personally visiting the highly affected area of el Rodeo, I was able to speak to survivors about their situation now and moving forward. One family, continued to dig each and every day searching for their loved ones. On Sunday the 17th when I was present, they were actively searching and digging for their family members.

The day prior, they successfully pulled two bodies out. The family recounted to me that they were able to make that progress because the foremen let them borrow one of the large machinery sent in by the government. The bulldozers and excavators are only being used to clear the “public” road at ground zero, and are not used to uncover people’s private houses. Without the large machinery to penetrate two stories of volcanic debris, survivors have to dig through by hand to get to the ground floor of their homes.

Even if the government and international community have declared the area a cemetery, it is important to note that as of today, June 24th, a week since the government declared a “campo santo” and suspended all search efforts, 5 more bodies were uncovered. This is because unrelenting survivors continue to search for the bodies of their loved ones. And exactly 3 weeks since the eruption without the help or support of the government, this family uncovered 3 adults and 2 children in their home of Los Lotes.


To read more in English about how Guatemalans are leading their own disaster recovery and the misinformation of statistics:  


While the newspapers are primarily reporting from ground zero and the statistics are reporting on displaced people from the eruption, there is another group of people affected by this tragedy that might not show in the statistics. I was able to visit the community of La Trinidad, where heavy rain destroyed their entire community. Guatemala is known for being one of the most precarious countries in the world, due to natural disasters and faulty infrastructure. But, this community was not affected by the typical landslides they experience every year. This year the rain came violently flooding down the volcano carrying volcanic debris including boulders and toxic material. This mudflow destroyed everything in its path, bringing down thousands of coffee plants and cornfields - demolishing everything in its path.

The road in and out of La Trinidad is now damaged and the path up to their plantations has been devoured. While the volcano did not erupt more than ash onto their community, the aftermath has compromised their entire livelihood. Their houses are intact, but their conscious is shaken.

The community of La Trinidad is particularly grieved by this incident. The community members that make up this town have been resettled here after the Civil War. During my meeting with them, they expressed their discomfort with being so close to an active volcano. After their village was destroyed by the war, the government relocated them to La Trinidad in the 80's. Seeing the vast fertile ground and decent climate, they were happy to relocated, but not having any idea what the volcano was capable of. 

Since the eruption, every family has left and taken shelter in a local school about 40 minutes further from the Volcán de Fuego. This shelter is not officially run by the government and is controlled specially by community leaders. Working with the Mayor of Escuintla, the community has taken refuge together and is supported by local and international donations. 

I took some time to visit the shelter and speak with the women directly about their situation now and in the future. They all had the same response. I’m not going back there.

So they wait. 

They told me they would wait in this shelter as long as they could until the government decides to relocate them again. They have no idea how long they will be displaced, but they did express to me that they were safe, clean and amongst their loved ones. The women had high spirits and were thankful to have clean running water and overall thankful that no one from La Trinidad lost their life.

Speaking with the men was a slightly different story. As the ones who typically work in the field they are concerned about the future of their community, mainly in food supply. If they stay in La Trinidad, they need a year or two to repair and replant their crops. Meaning, they have to think of their food supply for the entire community for this amount of time. And if the government relocates them, they have no idea when that will be or what it will look like.


“The thing is, that they are used to having a large plantation to tend to. And if the government gives them a farm to cultivate it will just be a small lot. Nothing like what they are used to."
Marleny Choguaj de la Cruz | Artisan Director Hiptipico
Origin: Panajachel, Solola, Guatemala


La Trinidad is just one of the many communities at the base of the volcano that has been threatened by these lahars with an uncertain future. This is not just an economic threat to their livelihoods, but also a psychological toll on the human.

The immediate needs are few. Shelters are well stocked. I have the occasional request to refill adult diaper stock, supply water filters or help coordinate food delivery. The World Central Kitchen has been preparing and delivery food for 500 – 1000 people in this event, and they are continuing to work hard to this day. 

The ambiguity lies in the coming weeks and months. As communities reach 1 month being displaced, supplies may start to dwindle. Illnesses could start to spread. Heavy rains continue to fall. Thousands of people do not know what their future holds in store.

I am making it my priority to continue to stay in contact with these families and community leaders as the situation progresses. There is a tight network of locals that have maintained consistency in the relief efforts. From daily medical missions, to delivering supplies, to psychological support in shelters – they have not stopped since day one. I will provide links to all the reputable people on the ground doing their part in the immediate while thinking about the future. They are locals that know what their government is lacking and have decided to coordinate efforts on their own to report and respond in the aftermath of this disaster.






I will be working with the aforementioned communities and volunteering in the relief efforts this entire week. Stay tuned for more specific updates and muchas gracias as always for your support and patience!

@alyssaya #fuerzaguatemala

June 24, 2018 

← Older Post Newer Post →