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Thursday
Jun072018

'They're all gone,' woman says of family members lost in aftermath of volcano eruption

ABC News(GUATEMALA CITY) -- Outside of an emergency shelter for evacuees of the Volcan de Fuego eruption in Guatemala, Norma Mavilia Azcon broke down in tears, desperate for any word on whether her two children, her nephew, sister-in-law, father and grandparents survived.

"We just want someone to help us find our family," Azcon told ABC News. "They're all gone."

Azcon and her brother, Rudy Gerardo Azcon, said they immediately ran for their lives on Sunday afternoon when they first saw smoke, fire, and ash billowing from the 12,346-foot summit of the volcano known in English as the Volcano of Fire.

"We had gotten used to it because in the past it would just erupt and blow smoke, but really this was something unexpected," Rudy Azcon told ABC News. "When I saw the smoke, I yelled at everyone to get out of here. I was alerting all of the people."

But many of his family members and neighbors in their village near El Rodeo chose to stay put and ride out the eruption.

"What a lot of people did is they just went inside their homes to hunker down," he said in Spanish. "They thought it was just going to be smoke. That's what is unfortunate."

Norma added: "We know that my sons ran down the road," she said of her two boys, ages 16 and 14. "That's why we're looking for them. They ran down the road. We want to find them. Someone, please help us."

Red-hot ash and volcanic debris spilled down the slopes of the volcano at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour leaving many in the path of the pyroclastic flow with no time to get out of harm's way, government officials said.

The 1,300-degree ash and molten rock buried entire villages at the foot of the volcano, destroying homes and toppling vehicles.

The death toll rose Thursday from 75 to 99 and nearly 200 people remain unaccounted for, officials said.

When the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted May 6 and sent a river of hot lava flowing over roads and houses as it cut a wide swath to the Pacific Ocean, many people had already heeded evacuation orders and escaped danger. But when Volcan De Fuego blew it caught people by surprise, including government officials who had been monitoring the volcano hours before it exploded but did not send out an emergency evacuation alert until it was too late for many.

Norma Azcon said she has called her home numerous times.

"No one is answering," she said, adding that she and her brother have gone from shelter to shelter asking about their missing loved ones.

Her brother said he hopes God has mercy on his family members, as well as on him and his sister.

"We're asking God to give us resignation and patience that we are human and we feel pain," Rudy Azcon said.

Across the hard-hit area about 30 miles west of the capital Guatemala City, many people were in the same situation as Norma and Rudy Azcon, frantic for any news on lost loved ones.

Rescuers continued to dig through the disaster zone on Thursday and conceded that the hope of finding survivors is dwindling.

Glendy Delfina Lopez told ABC News that 13 members of her family, including her two children, a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, were buried in the rubble of their home in Los Lotes.

"My entire family. They were in the house," the heartbroken Lopez said.

She said she got word that the bodies of at least one of her children, her parents and her two brothers had been recovered, but there is no way for her to get back to her village to identify them.

"My husband and my brother are out there. They're the only ones that survived in my entire family," Lopez told ABC News.

Lopez's friend, Alfredo Lopez Vasquez, said Lopez's husband and brother made it back to their home and found the bodies.

"And there are families that lost even more," Vasquez said.

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