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Communities prepare for the eruptive activity of the Fuego volcano

Communities from three departments surround the Fuego volcano, which is in the eruptive phase. (Photo: Byron García)

The Fire volcano It has maintained moderate and strong explosions since Friday, February 12, which puts the authorities on alert because there are around 36 thousand families in three departments near the cone.

According to Daniel García Montes, delegate of the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction for Sacatepéquez (Conred), 15 communities from Escuintla, seven from San Pedro Yepocapa, Chimaltenango – about 36 thousand families – and three communities from Alotenango are at risk. Sacatepéquez, -250 more families-.

In San Juan Alotenango, the most exposed populations are the communities of El Porvenir, Finca Candelaria and the Condominium La Reunion and San José Las Lajas. Conred points out that there are ash columns up to 4,200 meters above sea level.

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According to the neighbors, strong and moderate explosions have been reported that have vibrated the doors and windows.

“You get nervous. I think of my grandchildren, ”says Don Francisco, who has lived in El Porvenir for 48 years and the recent explosions are taken with nervousness, but also aware that it is better to have activity that reduces the risk of violent explosions like the one in 2018 He is part of a directive that has defined evacuation plans and coordination with local authorities.

Amid the ashfall, everyday life in downtown Alotenango continues. Vehicles have a thin layer of ash and people protect themselves when walking on the streets.

Isabel Cojolon, a neighbor of Alotenango, said that the activity of the volcano generates fear and uncertainty because there are stories and records that the eruptions have caused damage to communities.

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On the other hand, for Salvador Galindo, another resident of Alotenango, it is already normal to know that windows and doors vibrate when the volcano is active.

For their part, the authorities coordinate in an emergency event. Alotenango Mayor Sergio Gonzalo Sul explained that the Emergency Operations Committee (COE) is active and delegates have communicated to the most exposed communities the newsletters of the Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (Insivumeh).

Shelters and covid-19

Conred and the municipality of Alotenango have verified the facilities of the Transitional Single Family Shelters (Atus) built on the occasion of the 2018 tragedy to use them if there is a need to evacuate the families surrounding the cone, which must now comply with social distancing measures to avoid cases of covid-19.

The doctor María Cristina Tocay reported that the action plan includes setting up a sampling and isolation area for possible cases of coronavirus. The municipality is in the yellow color of the epidemiological traffic light, but there is a risk that the condition will worsen because the population goes to work in other municipalities that are on high alert for covid-19.

In the Santa Inés farm, along the RN14 route, there are 180 Single-Family Transitional Shelters (Atus), which were installed due to the tragedy of June 2018. Here it is expected that the families surrounding the Volcán de Fuego would be transferred. In each ATU, 4 families of 5 members can be accommodated

If the ATUS were enabled, it would be working for at least 30 days, say the authorities, who are not currently considering evacuations.