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Guatemala affected by its biggest volcanic eruption for 44 years

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1.7 million people affected by Guatemala’s biggest volcanic eruption for 44 years – Emergency shelter experts ShelterBox have aid standing by in Panama, and are talking to in-country Rotary contacts

25 people are known to have died, and more may be buried under ash and lava, as the Fuego volcano in Guatemala affected different areas of Chimaltenango, Sacatepéquez and Escuintla. One entire community, El Rodeo, is suspected to be buried. ShelterBox is in touch with colleagues in the Central American country, and monitoring any need for its aid.

In Guatemala’s most violent volcanic eruption for over four decades, the Fuego volcano about 25 miles from the capital Guatemala City has spewed rocks, dense black smoke and ash, and caused a lava flow that engulfed the village of El Rodeo, killing residents.

Guatemala City’s airport has been closed, and the President has declared three days of national mourning. There are fears for residents of another village La Libertad, because lava has made it inaccessible.

ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Anna Dixie says, 'This disaster is still in the emergency phase, and accurate information on the number of people affected will follow once the situation has been fully assessed. ShelterBox has been in touch with its local Rotary colleagues to follow the emerging picture. It is only the early hours of the morning in Guatemala, so proper assessment by the authorities will have to await daylight.'

‘At a later stage we will know whether ShelterBox aid can be helpful, and if so we have it stored a short flight away in Panama. But with Guatemala’s main airport closed access will be one of the initial challenges.’

ShelterBox is a specialist emergency shelter agency based in Cornwall, with seventeen affiliate organisations worldwide. It provides tents, tools and equipment to families following natural disasters and conflict, helping them to restart and rebuild. In 2017, ShelterBox’s busiest year ever, it helped 32,000 households or 160,000 people who had lost everything, sending aid to 20 different countries.

ShelterBox has deployed to Guatemala on four occasions – to an earthquake in 2012, to flooding and a tropical storm in 2010, and to flooding in 2005.

ShelterBox is also currently helping the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, where a volcano has directly affected 11,000 people on Ambae Island. It also responded to volcanic eruptions in Ecuador in 2006, and Chile in 2015.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • ShelterBox’s Operations Team is closely monitoring developments in Guatemala from their UK HQ, and can offer interviews if workload allows. Please arrange via marknicholson@shelterbox.org or 07584 489194.