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200 missing as Guatemala volcano threatens new eruptions

Explosions boomed from Guatemala’s fearsome Fuego volcano Wednesday, unleashing fresh torrents of molten mud and ash down slopes where officials said 75 people had been killed and 200 were still missing.

According to Press TV, fears of a new blowup of the 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano have stalked rescue workers since Sunday’s eruption buried entire villages on its southern flank.

Officials said the known number of dead from that eruption was 75, though the toll was expected to rise.

“We already have data with names and locations where there are missing persons and that number is 192,” Sergio Cabanas, Head of Guatemala’s Disaster Management Agency, told reporters.

Among the latest of the 75 fatalities reported by the National Institute of Forensic Sciences was a 42-year-old woman who died in hospital, having lost both legs and an arm in the eruption.

Experts warned Wednesday that heavy rains in the area could provoke avalanches due to the large flows of volcanic mud, known as lahars, since the eruption on Sunday.

Volcanologists recorded the volcano exploding several times an hour Wednesday, which generated a fresh 4,700 meter (15,500 feet) high column of gray ash.

“The explosions are generating moderate avalanches that have an approximate distance of 800 to 1,000 meters,” the Volcanology Institute said.

It said the lahars could sweep down the mountain laden with concrete, rocks up to a meter (yard) in diameter and tree trunks.

“The activity continues and the possibility of new pyroclastic flows in the next hours or days cannot be ruled out, so it is recommended not to remain near the affected area,” it said.

Emergency workers had to temporarily suspend their search late Tuesday after a new eruption triggered a landslide.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from seven communities in the Escuintla area near the summit, as panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape, causing chaotic traffic.

An AFP photographer saw a large plume of ash rise into the sky, prompting an evacuation of everyone authorities could find before the police, the military and rescuers were ordered to stand down.

Hundreds of rescue workers, including firefighters, police and the military, were battling adverse conditions to search for remains in the tangled morass of rubble, dust and earth left behind by the landslides.

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