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Marking One Week Since Guatemala's Deadly Volcano


It's been a week since the volcano called Fuego - Spanish for fire - erupted in Guatemala, sending flows of hot ash, lava and rocks down its flank and burying entire villages in its path, killing scores of people. A state of alert continues in that Central American country as officials warn of additional eruptions. Meanwhile, many are criticizing the government of Guatemala's response to the disaster. Maria Martin has this report.


MARIA MARTIN, BYLINE: Here in San Juan Alotenango, located in the shadow of the Volcan de Fuego, they're still burying the dead. Dozens of those whose bodies have been identified come from this community, which has also become a center for survivors of the devastating volcanic eruption - with three shelters for the thousands left homeless and evacuated.


MARTIN: But on Saturday morning, the scene at the shelter was one of chaos as those in charge wouldn't let aid come in, and evacuees lined up, pleading for food and supplies, obviously frustrated.

MAXIMA: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: This woman, Maxima, in her 40s from the hamlet of Porvenir (ph), lost eight family members in the eruption. Now she blames local officials for keeping aid from the victims and the government of President Jimmy Morales for not sounding the alert soon enough.

MAXIMA: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: "Of course," she says, "if there had been an alert, everyone would have left. But as it was, almost everyone is there, buried."

MAXIMA: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: The government of Guatemala has allotted the equivalent of some $35 million for relief and reconstruction. But questions are being widely raised regarding the qualifications of those in charge of the relief effort and whether the funds will be enough for what needs to be a long-term strategy. Sue Patterson is a former U.S. consul and longtime resident of the nearby colonial capital of Antigua.

SUE PATTERSON: We all hope that the government gets its act together because there are many people who will need to replace their housing. And there will be long-term health effects from this, as well.

MARTIN: After some questions as to why convoys of supplies from neighboring countries weren't being allowed in, it appears international aid is now being accepted. Meanwhile, in Alotenango and other places, there are many altars with candles burning to remember the still-undetermined number of casualties of Volcan Fuego. For NPR News, I'm Maria Martin, San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.