THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

For relatives of Guatemala volcano victims, an agonising wait

GUATEMALA: At an improvised morgue in the Guatemalan town of Escuintla, dozens of people stand around in an anguished daze, clutching photos of their loved ones, hoping to recover their bodies for burial.

deathdisasters
By AFP

Monday 11 June 2018, 10:07AM


School teacher Milvia Lopez, standing in an improvised morgue in the Guatemalan town of Escuintla, shows pictures of some of her students who died or remain missing after the eruption of the Fuego volcano. Photo: Henry Morales / AFP

School teacher Milvia Lopez, standing in an improvised morgue in the Guatemalan town of Escuintla, shows pictures of some of her students who died or remain missing after the eruption of the Fuego volcano. Photo: Henry Morales / AFP

This small town, some 35 kilometres southwest of Guatemala City, was nearly wiped off the map last Sunday (June 3) by the violent eruption of the Fuego volcano and the crushing avalanches of earth, ash and glowing lava that followed.

The eruption claimed at least 110 lives and left dozens missing, according to an official tally. And some 4,500 people have no homes to return to.

“They are not animals, they are people,” said Boris Rodriguez, 24, who managed to recover a dozen corpses shortly after an avalanche devastated the village of San Miguel Los Lotes. Along with many other mourners, he is waiting for the bodies, still in the morgue, to be returned to family members for burial.

But some families are losing patience as authorities conduct the methodical process of identifying bodies in the makeshift morgue set up in a local school. Dozens of the dead are being kept there.

Rodriguez has been biding his time at the morgue since last Monday (June 4). Almost a week after helping recover the corpses of 10 relatives, they have yet to be formally identified.

“It is simply too painful to pull those bodies out and not be able to keep vigil over them,” he said, standing near a stack of coffins provided for families unable to afford one.

The identification process is slow, involving DNA testing and interviews with relatives. So far, only 41 bodies have been formally identified, according to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences.

Many residents say the tragedy could have been avoided if civil protection authorities had issued a timely evacuation alert.

So said Enma Pamal, 46, who took the first available flight from the United States – her home of 26 years – upon learning of the catastrophe. Back in the now-devastated community where she was born, she discovered she had lost 18 relatives.

Standing with her 27-year-old brother Gerson, a survivor, she said people were beginning to lose “patience, if not hope” as the identification process drags on.

Enma, who has provided medical examiners with DNA samples and details of the victims’ moles, scars and other physical characteristics, was visibly annoyed by the delay.

“They should stop telling us to be patient,” she said.

Also waiting in the morgue was 50-year-old teacher Milvia Rosales. She carried a poster with photos of students from the San Miguel Los Lotes school.

Nearly 50 of them died or disappeared in the disaster.

“It makes me sad,” said Rosales, walking from one end of the building to the other to look for missing students.

“I need my children,” she added, choking back a sob.

But some victims have been identified, and one solemn funeral procession yesterday (June 10) drew some one thousand family members and friends.

Carlos Garcia, 16, walked alongside the coffins carrying the bodies of his sister Griselda Cortina, 27, and his nine-year-old niece, Meylin Johaly Chavez, as it moved toward a cemetery in the town of San Juan Alotenango.

Both died in the torrent of ash, stone and toxic gas spewed by the volcano. Coffins carrying two other women were also in the procession.

Carlos was saved because he lived farther downhill than his relatives, and escaped when he saw neighbours running in terror. “Nobody warned us,” he said.

Hundreds of men formed a corridor for the funeral procession, which was led by 11 children carrying bouquets of flowers.

Jaime Barillas was there to bury his 28-year-old wife, Maria Etelvina Charaldo. Their daughters, aged six and two, are still missing.

He does not know whether their bodies are in the morgue or still lie buried under the mounds of mud and ashes.

“I cannot hurt any more than I do,’ he said. “I’ll never see them again.”

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket pharmacists up in arms over Drugs Act

What is so puzzling about what the legislation proscribes? What is puzzling is why a military junta ...(Read More)


American tourist in ICU after Krabi rock climbing fall

As a patient (since deceased) or relative of the deceased, one would be mortified to read comments c...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: The world is watching us

If the Thai basher would only read the article, it was not Thai's worried about international pe...(Read More)


Poor service quality dogs airport ranking

Hire foreign professionals to upgrade Suvarnabhumi airport. Abroad many countries do that a few year...(Read More)


Over 1,000 arrested in Phuket ‘Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner’ clampdown

Question again: Where are these 1463 foreigners hold presently until they get deported? Not in Phuke...(Read More)


New Phuket Provincial Prison reaches half-way mark

Phuket Town prison, built for 750 prisoners. Now holding a total of 3131 prisoners! To say that the...(Read More)


Phuket Vegetarian Festival takes to the streets

I am well aware as would most intelligent people of the implications of the devotees in this festiva...(Read More)


Poor service quality dogs airport ranking

Thailand's bullheaded bureaucracies will ensure that nothing changes. As the AoT continues to m...(Read More)


Cocaine, heroin popular among specific groups in Patong, police play down claim

When a town police chief plays down a Vice Governor we face a Phuket authority struggle. And for the...(Read More)


Phuket pharmacists up in arms over Drugs Act

Well, this whole affair/plan is already off the table, but I was puzzled by the term "health p...(Read More)


 

Melbourne Cup 2018