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Latin America & Caribbean

The communities surrounding the Fuego volcano in Guatemala should never have been built.

Most of the deaths attributed to the eruption were of people living in zones that had been deemed extremely dangerous by several geological surveys. The order to evacuate was given too late.
8 Jun 2018 – 11:16 AM EDT

The Fuego volcano in Guatemala, erupted on Sunday, June 3rd. The explosion caused large pyroclastic flows at high speeds that buried several communities, leaving at least 75 dead and over 200 people missing.

The large eruption that occurred at 1pm local time generated an ash plume 6 miles high (10 km) and spread rocks, ash and volcanic material all over the mountainsides.

This large flow of ash and hot gas of at least 1,290 degrees farenheit (700 degrees celcius) flowed down the side of the mountain towards towns located along the path of many rivers.

People living in the town of San Miguel Los Lotes did not receive the obligatory evacuation order and were unaware of the incoming avalanche. An estimate of 80% of the victims of the volcano were from this colony.

The deadly path

Pyroclastic flows can topple structures and can kill any living thing in their path. In the case of the Guatemalan volcano, studies indicate that this deadly effect occurs every 4 decades from eruptions.


The flow reached up to 93 mph. The high temperatures destroyed everything in its path

El Rodeo


The mix was denser than air, so it kept the flow along the ground of the mountain

Campo de Golf

La Reunión

San Miguel

Los Lotes


The explosion caused a mix of gases and rock particles.

In 2001, the United States Geological Society (USGS) published a study of the hazardous zones around the Fuego volcano. They published several maps indicating how many of the surrounding communities were in danger of lahars (flows of volcanic material mixed with water) and pyroclastic flows.

According to the study, in the event of an eruption, pyroclastic flows, lava and rocks can reach the red shaded area. Many habitable towns are located here.

The same study shows, in the orange shaded areas, which zones are in danger of lahars.

As the study confirmed, the recent explosion of the Fuego volcano, generated a pyroclastic flow that destroyed the communities of San Miguel Los Lotes, La Reunion golf course and parts of El Rodeo.

Decline of the pyroclastic flow of hot gases and ash along the side of the volcano.

The main building in the residential area and La Reunion golf course were completely covered by ash.

The town of San Miguel Los Lotes was left completely covered by several meters of ash. The largest death toll and missing are from this area.

A survivor of San Miguel Los Lotes watches his surroundings covered in ash

The volcano erupted once again, two days after the original explosion of June 3rd. Authorities have evacuated several zones of the Escuintla department, in case of further pyroclastic flows moving south.

An image of the pyroclastic flow from the Fuego volcano eruption last Sunday.
Sources:Pyroclastic flow hazard ( Copernicus), Volcanic hazard maps of Fuego volcano (USGS, Volcano Hazard at Fuego), Geographic information of towns (Infraestructura de Datos Espaciales de Guatemala, IDEG). Topographic elevation (CGIAR), Press release from CONRED (Coordinadora Nacianal para la Reducción de Desastres).
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Video: La gigantesca columna de cenizas que cubrió el cielo en Guatemala tras la erupción del volcán de Fuego

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