Officials report that nearly 200 people are missing and at least 75 have been killed following Sunday’s since Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption.
According to the report, seven communities in already devastated areas were evacuated as the volcano’s activity increased, with rescue operations halted.
In the city of Escuintla, near the summit, panicked locals rushed to their cars to escape, causing chaotic traffic.
Disaster relief agency, chief Sergio Cabanas told reporters that a total of 192 people remain missing since the weekend eruptions began.
Search for bodies in mountain villages destroyed by the eruption was ongoing. However, officials said the nature of the terrain and the way the volcano released large amounts of boiling mud, rock and ash down the mountain is slowing down the progress of the search.
Cabanas said: “We will continue until we find the last victim, though we do not know how many there are. We will probe the area as many times as necessary.
“If you are trapped in a pyroclastic flow, it’s hard to come out of it alive,” he said, adding that people who may have been caught in the flow may never be found.
The 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano erupted early Sunday, spewing out towering plumes of ash and a hail of fiery rock fragments with scalding mud.
Authorities said more than 1.7 million people had been affected by the disaster, including more than 3,000 ordered evacuated, many living in shelters in Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango since Sunday’s eruption.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply saddened by the “tragic loss of life and the significant damage caused by the eruption,” and said the UN was ready to assist national rescue and relief efforts.