Volcano and Storm Batter Guatemalan Town

Guatemala ash

The rooftops in San Francisco de Sales were damaged by the molten rocks that showered down when the Pacaya volcano erupted in Guatemala. Photo by Flor Muñoz/CRS

Regional technical advisor for emergencies, Holly Inurreta, is helping with the response to the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano and the torrential rains of Tropical Storm Agatha that swept through Guatemala . The following is part of her first-hand account of a visit to the community of San Francisco de Sale in San Vincente de Pacaya.

We visited the community of San Francisco de Sales in San Vincente de Pacaya near the Pacaya volcano. This is the first time the community has been affected by a significant eruption from the volcano. There was an eruption in 1998 but the damage wasn’t severe and actually served to increase tourism to see the lava flows and visit the nearby hot baths.

The community is pretty dazed, they are not used to responding to an emergency. They’ve lost the majority of their coffee crops. The animals are suffering because there is no grass to eat. They’ve also lost money on tourism. And even though the area is going to open up next week, there are still rocks in the street, the roads are in poor condition and some hostels have been damaged.

Guatemala flood

A women from the community of El Chile in Iztapa, Esquintla, Guatemala, demonstrates how high the flood waters from Tropical Storm Agatha rose on her house. Photo by Flor Muñoz/CRS

I’ve seen the effects of a volcano eruption in other countries like Ecuador, and what you usually see is ash, which is very fine, fine sand. What happened instead is that volcanic pumice stones hit several communities. Even though that stone is light, they were hot and burnt holes in the rooftops. The whole town is covered in 2 inches of volcanic rock, it’s on their tin roofs, on the road, and unlike ash it can’t simply be tilled into the earth and used as a fertilizer.

The Agatha rains brought a whole other set of problems to the people living near the Pacaya volcano. Almost everyone had experienced roof damage and either had holes from the hot rocks or their roofs collapsed completely from the weight of those rocks combined with the additional weight of the rain. It continues to rain, and because of the holes in their roofs, it’s now raining inside their homes. People are trying to take the pieces of zinc sheeting that are still good and repair the roofs as best they can.

We’re hoping to provide a roofing kit that would include thicker gauge zinc sheeting so that it can withstand more ash and heat, and additional beams to put under the zinc so the roofs are stronger. We’re also planning to give them vouchers so that they can decide which household items and cleaning tools they most need from their local markets.

Although some assistance is being provided in these communities, it almost feels like the people who were hit by the volcano have been forgotten because Agatha came in and hit many other areas of Guatemala but these communities were hit twice: first by the volcano and then the storm.

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One Response to “Volcano and Storm Batter Guatemalan Town”

  1. indir Says:

    Although some assistance is being provided in these communities, it almost feels like the people who were hit by the volcano have been forgotten because Agatha came in and hit many other areas of Guatemala but these communities were hit twice: first by the volcano and then the storm.

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