A charity worker from the Capital working in the shadow of Guatemala’s deadly volcano has described the moment her whole home shook when it erupted.
Yvonne Sinclair, 57, has been living in the Central American country for the past 14 years since she gave up a high-flying career in advertising to work with vulnerable Mayan communities.
She is so close to the deadly Fuego volcano in the city of Antigua that she can see it from her kitchen window.
Nearer villages on the slopes were buried in volcanic ash and mud.
Yvonne told the Evening News how her windows rattled all Saturday night before the lethal explosion sent plumes of molten lava and deadly ash over nearby communities.
She said: “I am ten miles from Fuego in the city of Antigua and I often take many pictures from my home since it is active in a gentle way most days.
“The house rattled all Saturday night and in the morning the volcano’s smoke was much darker than usual.
“At first it sounded like hailstones, then we realised it was hard black granules that were coming down.”
Ninety-nine people are now known to have died since Fuego erupted on Sunday. Nearly 200 others remain unaccounted for.
Subsequent smaller eruptions and the high temperatures of the rock and mud debris have made search teams’ work extremely difficult.
More than 1.7 million people have been affected, with more than 3,000 evacuated.
Although far enough away not to be in immediate danger, Yvonne made sure she contacted her father, retired journalist Bill Sinclair, back in Stockbridge.
Bill, 83, told the Evening News: “Yvonne contacted the whole family via our WhatsApp group to tell us she was OK, but as you can imagine we have been very worried for her. She described the ash coming down on her house and how she was finding it difficult to breathe.
“Naturally I’d prefer it if she just left the area and got away completely, but she would never contemplate that. She is very dedicated to her work helping the persecuted Mayan people in the area and we are very proud of her for it.”
Yvonne told the Evening News: “Many people have been wearing masks in Antigua yesterday and there was more ash fall with threats of another eruption, though it all looks quieter this morning.”
The desperate search operation for survivors is continuing, but there are fears that heavy rain could cause fresh landslides of volcanic mud.
Efforts were cut short again yesterday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides.
Boiling water flowing down the volcano’s slopes from dangerously hot volcanic gas and ash also posed a threat. A day earlier, flows of super-heated volcanic material forced crews to pull back. The volcano is meanwhile continuing to spew out ash and rocks.
There are 3,000 people being accommodated in temporary shelters out of the 12,000 who were evacuated from the area.