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CRS aiding Guatamalan victims of volcano eruption

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BALTIMORE, Maryland | Catholic Relief Services, the international humanitarian relief and development organization of the U.S. Catholic Church, is responding to Sunday’s “Volcan de Fuego” (fire volcano) eruption in Guatemala, which left an entire community buried in ash.

The death toll from the volcano – currently at 70 – is expected to climb into the hundreds as rescuers make their way to villages devastated by the mixtures of hot gas and rock – known as pyroclastic flows – that swept down the volcano’s slopes.

"The Church sprang into action immediately by opening shelters and getting lifesaving relief to those who need it. But there is a lot of work to do with so many people impacted by this disaster,” said Luis Rolando Sanchez, CRS’ emergency coordinator for CRS’ Latin America region. Sanchez is currently assessing the situation in Escuintla, an area that's at the epicenter of the volcanic eruption.

“More and more people are arriving at shelters; hundreds are thought to have lost their homes. CRS is working with Caritas Escuintla and the local government to coordinate a response that meets the growing needs,” Sanchez said.

The president of Guatemala has declared a State of Public Mourning for three days due to the irreparable loss of human lives caused by the eruption. The impacted areas of Guatemala include Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepéquez districts.  

CRS is coordinating with government and local actors, including the Church, to provide food, water, medicine and other lifesaving relief items to those impacted by the disaster. The Church has also opened three shelters for the displaced, and the number of people seeking refuge continues to grow.  

“What I’ve seen so far is complete destruction. Hundreds of people have lost everything and dozens of people have been killed. Some families are still searching for missing loved ones. Yet despite the unimaginable damage and heartbreak, I have hope that these communities will recover. People in Guatemala are nothing if not resilient,” Sanchez said. 

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