Rising from the Ash: Guatemala trying to recover three months after volcano buried villages in ash

(WSVN) - It has been three months since a volcano erupted in Guatemala, killing nearly 200 people and leaving hundreds more missing. Towns were covered in ash and the situation is still dire. 7’s Brian Entin traveled to Central America to the base of the volcano and has our special report “Rising from the Ash.”

Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted with virtually no warning on June 3.

A dark cloud filled the sky, and towns at the base of the volcano were covered in ash.

Almost three months later, 7News crews touch down in Guatemala City.

Driving as close as we can to the still active volcano, we meet this woman named Mirtala who tells us her home was destroyed when the volcano erupted. Her family was killed.

She survived because she wasn’t home when the volcano blew.

Mirtala Chavez Sican, survivor (through a translator): “When we got home, the house was completely gone. Everyone was dead. We couldn’t rescue them. It was my brother, his wife, his kids.”

Mirtala takes us on a rickshaw into an area normally blocked off by police.

This is her village — San Miguel Los Lotes.

There is nothing left. All the houses are buried under thick ash.

Brian Entin: “So this was your house?”

Mirtala Chavez Sican: “Aqui. Si, si.”

Her brother’s remains are under here somewhere.

Brian Entin: “Tu hermano?”

Mirtala Chavez Sican (points down): “Si.”

Brian Entin: “He is buried here.”

The Guatemalan government says more than 200 are still missing. Hundreds more were injured.

Mirtala Chavez Sican (through translator): “We didn’t hear anything. It just came, everything went black. No one knew what to do because everything happened so fast.”

Brian Entin: “That’s the volcano that you see right there. And down where we are, these villages were totally covered in ash. To give you an idea how much ash there was, these are the tops of trees, and all around us there were homes that are now completely covered. We’re told there are still hundreds of bodies buried in this ash. There was actually a school right beyond those trees. All you can see now is the roofline.”

This was a church where 18 people died when the ash fell from the sky.

You can still see where people were eating at this table. The plates and cups are untouched.

Brian Entin: “Is this a Bible?”

Mirtala Chavez Sican: “La Biblia, si.”

There are crews still digging for bodies, but it’s a painstakingly long process. And the families say it costs them $350 a day to use the equipment.

Most here can’t afford that.

The waiting is hard. Damarys Thomas is still waiting for crews to find her 6-year-old daughter Emily, who was buried alive.

Damarys Thomas, survivor (through translator): “I am really sad because I have yet to find her or find out anything about her.”

Damarys says she waits everyday, hoping crews will find Emily’s remains so she can give her little girl a funeral.

And there are so many other families here who are also waiting.

Mirtala Chavez Sican (through translator): “It’s very difficult to live this hell every day, to know we still haven’t found them.”

The survivors say reporters and relief groups have almost totally disappeared over the last several months.

They feel forgotten, which is why they were so stunned when relief from South Florida showed up.

That part of the story airs Wednesday.

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