Guatemalans in the Bay Area said they are heartbroken over the news of the massive volcanic eruption that has killed dozens and displaced thousands of people.
“We are sad and we are worried for Guatemala,” said 26-year-old Pedro Sales Perez, a construction worker in Oakland who was eating lunch Monday at Rinconcito Chapin, a Guatemalan restaurant in the Fruitvale neighborhood. “Guatemala is mourning and so are we.”
More than 3,200 people have been evacuated since the Volcan de Fuego, about 25 miles from the capital of Guatemala City, began spewing hot lava and gas through several towns Sunday.
The village of El Rodeo was completely buried with volcanic material. The death toll -- 65 at press time -- is expected to rise.
Over 1.7 million people in the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla are affected by the eruption, reportedly the largest Guatemala has seen in more than a century.
Bay Area residents who are unable to contact loved ones in the affected region should call the consulate's emergency hotline -- (510) 816-3645 -- said Heidy Panjoj, vice consul with the Guatemalan Consulate in San Francisco.
The consulate is expecting to coordinate efforts to send donations and aid to Guatemala in the coming days.
“We are currently waiting for official information from Guatemala, in the next hours, about what the needs are and the official channels we should use to send aid,” said Panjoj.
Carlos Barrera, an Uber driver from Half Moon Bay, said he is ready to donate money and help raise funds among friends who want to help survivors.
“As Guatemalans, it affects us a lot. It’s very painful with so many people suffering because of this,” said Barrera, who has lived in the San Francisco area for nine years. "The eruption was very sudden and people weren't prepared for that."
Guatemala's national disaster response agency, CONRED, said the eruption lasted more than 16 hours.
The agency described the substance ejected by the volcano as a pyroclastic flow -- defined by the U.S. Geological Survey as "a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas."
The USGS adds that pyroclastic flows, which resemble avalanches in their overwhelming rush, can reach temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit and speeds of more than 50 mph. They can "knock down, shatter, bury or carry away nearly all objects and structures in their path," the service notes.
"It's a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village. There are injured, burned and dead people," CONRED General Secretary Sergio Cabañas said on radio.
Eddy Sánchez of the country's National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology told the newspaper Diario de Centro América that thick black smoke and ash also fell for miles around the volcano — including in San Lucas, Antigua Guatemala, Alotenango, Chimaltenango and Zaragoza.
Most of the victims reported initially were from the village of El Rodeo, according to Guatemala's El Periódico newspaper.
This post includes reporting from NPR.