British backpacker tells of 'harrowing' Guatemala volcano scenes

There was panic as a fresh eruption sparked an evacuation of areas surrounding the Volcan de Fuego

There was panic as a fresh eruption sparked an evacuation of areas surrounding the Volcan de Fuego

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A British backpacker helping with the "harrowing" volcano relief effort in Guatemala has described panic as a fresh eruption sparked an evacuation of areas surrounding the Volcan de Fuego.

Late on Tuesday the Foreign Office updated its advice to Britons in the area as the volcano continued to go through a period of increased activity.

A number of backpackers from the UK and Ireland are said to have volunteered to help with the relief effort in the wake of Sunday's eruption which left at least 75 people dead.

Matt Goldsmith, 22, was arriving in Alotenango, just over five miles from the volcano, when the thunderous activity began again on Tuesday.

"There was a lot of panic... we had just arrived in Alotenango and had to turn around. A policeman told us the area was being evacuated," he told the Press Association.

"There was a traffic jam because the roads are not built for all the aid vehicles that have come to help."

Authorities raised the death toll from the weekend's eruption on Tuesday, as rescue teams continued the grim search for the missing.

Meanwhile, strong explosions blew ash more than 16,000 feet (5,000 metres) above sea level, with volcanic material blown over settlements to the east and north-east.

Mr Goldsmith said: "We heard the eruption, it sounds a lot like thunder - every time I hear thunder I think 'not again'.

"The weather has also been a problem, the heavy rain is a concern as mudslides are a risk. We are very much in the wet season now."

The freelance journalist from Wilmslow, Cheshire, joined volunteers transporting supplies to towns and villages near the volcano.

He said there were a number of people from the UK and Ireland volunteering with the relief effort, along with backpackers from the US, Canada and Europe.

"There have been a lot of ups and downs, some harrowing stuff and heart-warming stuff," he said.

"We've been driving to the more isolated parts. We went to a village today where they did not have any running water and relied on rain water.

"Now they are completely without water because of the ash, they don't have food because all the crops are destroyed. The sulphur in the volcanic ash means they won't be able to grow anything.

"I saw a woman who had miscarried as she got out of one of the towns and in Alotenango they had coffins lined up in the centre outside."