Guatemala volcano rescues suspended as death toll hits 109

Funeral procession

A church in New Hampshire is collecting donations to help the thousands of people left homeless from a destructive volcanic eruption in Guatemala. Some 100 people were killed and 200 others were still missing on Thursday. "And we also know from experience that the outcomes can be much better than people expect from the get go", Dr. Steven E. Wolf, chief of staff at Shriners Hospital for Children-Galveston, said Thursday morning.

Oscar Chavez trekked over a mountain with his father and younger brother to search for his brother Edgar, sister-in-law Sandra and 4-year-old nephew Josue in the hamlet of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was nearly entirely wiped out by the volcanic flows.

The United States is sending emergency aid, including financial resources, to help meet food, water and sanitation needs for victims affected by the eruption of Guatemala's Volcano of Fire.

The agency said seven of the latest victims were in a temporary morgue installed close to the impact zone, in the now-devastated community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, south of the capital Guatemala City.

Rescuers resumed the search Wednesday, and Associated Press reporters saw them recovering remains.

"We need a backhoe, but they (authorities) have to authorize it first and they don't give permission", Esqueque said.

Subsoil temperatures hit up to 700 degrees during the height of the eruption, and now the search is well under way clearing the rubble of shattered homes, looking for bodies.

"The conditions are critical in the areas near Fuego volcano", said Eddy Sanchez, director of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, adding that Sunday's eruption is the most violent explosion of Fuego volcano since 1974. She is the aunt of six children aged 1 to 8 who died in Los Lotes.

Another Los Lotes resident who survived the volcano, Alonso Castillo, estimated that more than 400 people lived in the town.

Rains have been hitting the area and the agency says climatic conditions as well as the still-hot volcanic material deposited on the villages makes it unsafe for the rescuers. The agency said it chose to suspend the search now that 72 hours had passed.

The volcanic eruption sent ash billowing over the surrounding area, turning plants and trees gray and blanketing streets, cars and people.

An American military plane has already transported some burn victims to the US for specialized treatment, the US Air Force said.

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