Thousands evacuated as Guatemala volcano erupts again

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Steam rises from Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A view of the Fuego Volcano erupting, as seen from El Rodeo municipality, in Escuintla department, 45 km southwest of Guatemala City on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
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A view of the Fuego Volcano erupting, as seen from El Rodeo municipality, in Escuintla department, 45 km southwest of Guatemala City on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018
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Thousands evacuated as Guatemala volcano erupts again

  • The Volcano of Fire is one of the most active in Central America and an eruption in June killed 194 people
  • Hundreds of families heeded the call of disaster coordination authorities to evacuate 10 communities, piling into yellow school buses for trips to shelters

GUATEMALA CITY: About 4,000 residents fled Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire Monday as red-hot rock and ash spewed into the sky and cascaded down the slopes toward an area devastated by a deadly eruption earlier this year.
Guatemala’s volcanology unit said that explosions from the 12,300-foot (3,763-meter) high mountain shook homes with “constant sounds similar to a train locomotive.”
Incandescent material burst as high as 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) above the crater and flows of hot rock and ash extended nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) down one flank of the volcano. Hot blasts of pyroclastic material pushed down canyons on the slopes, while a column of ash rose nearly 23,000 feet (7,000 meters) above sea level and drifted toward Guatemala City to the east.
Hundreds of families heeded the call of disaster coordination authorities to evacuate 10 communities, piling into yellow school buses for trips to shelters. The national disaster commission said 3,925 people had been evacuated by early Monday.

The Volcano of Fire is one of the most active in Central America and an eruption in June killed 194 people. Another 234 are officially missing, although organizations supporting the communities have insisted there are thousands of missing persons.
It spewed more ash and hot rock in October, prompting warnings for the nearby communities.
The biggest danger from the volcano are lahars, a mixture of ash, rock, mud and debris, that can bury entire towns. However, by Monday, there had been no reports of such flows reaching populated areas, though authorities were taking no chances; they were harshly criticized for not calling for evacuations earlier in June.
Four shelters have been set up for evacuees. Dora Caal, 26, and five members of her family took refuge under a nylon tent at a sports stadium in the nearby town of Escuintla.
“Last night we heard the volcano roar, you could see fire, we couldn’t sleep,” said Caal, whose town of El Rodeo was largely evacuated.
“At dawn we said we’d better get out, we were afraid,” Caal said as the sun beat down fiercely at the improvised shelter. People like Caal are still reeling from the effects of the June eruption.
“Back then I lost my job at a farm that was on the slopes of the volcano. They closed it and we can’t work there anymore,” she said.
Enma Hernandez, 42, left her home in El Rodeo to evacuate, but her 20-year-old son stayed behind to protect the family home from looters. In fact, many men stayed behind in the town; there were mainly women and children at the shelter.


South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

Updated 10 December 2018
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South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

  • The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule

NAIROBI: South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a program starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licensed but is considered safe and provided “under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC,” the WHO said.
Like neighboring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.
The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.
South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people — about a third of the population — have fled.
The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organizations remains complicated and dangerous.
Participants in the vaccination program have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travelers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.