Photo Credit: Israel Embassy in Guatemala
Israeli Flag flies at half-mast in solidarity with the people of Guatemala after the eruption of Volcan de Fuego

Israel Ambassador to Guatemala Matty Cohen has ordered the flag of the Jewish State to be lowered to half-mast at the headquarters of the Israel Embassy as a sign of solidarity with the people of Guatemala in the wake of Sunday’s deadly eruption of the Fuego volcano. The flag joins with that of Guatemala, also lowered to half mast as ordered by President Jimmy Morales.

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“On behalf of the government of Israel I would like to express our solidarity with the people and Government of Guatemala over the damage caused by the eruption of Volcan de Fuego, the ‘Fire Volcano.’ My condolences to the families of the victims. May God bless Guatemala,” Cohen wrote in a separate tweet.

Guatemala immediately followed the United States as the second nation to move its embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, last month.

Entire villages were buried knee-deep in boiling ash, rocks, and mud. Ash from the volcano reached the international airport in Guatemala City, forcing it to close.

The pyroclastic density currents were as devastating as the hot lava flows seen in the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea, if not more so, because one can usually run away from lava, according to University of Hull geology department head Rebecca Williams, who spoke with The Daily Beast. William said pyroclastic density currents — sometimes called pyroclastic flow — are the volcanic version of an avalanche, comprised of toxic chemicals at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Centigrade with various gases, rocks and ash. “They … travel faster than a car, so you can’t outdrive them.”

The cloud of ash that was blown from the volcano rose 10 kilometers into the air, eventually landing as far as 40 kilometers away, inland. The “river of lava” that flowed through the villages raced down the slope of the volcano at a speed of 700 miles per hour — the speed of an airliner, as a CNN meteorologist put it — giving nearby residents of El Rodeo at the foot of Volcan de Fuego no chance at all to evacuate.

The search and rescue crews fought desperately to pull people — some still alive, and those already dead — from the ash, some of it piled as high as the street signs. One reporter likened the scene to that of Pompeii, only 30 miles southwest of the capital. Guatemala police miraculously pulled a baby from the ash in one instance.

The heat from the ground is still reported to be so intense that in some cases it can “melt the soles of your shoes,” said a CBS reporter. The once-densely vegetated terrain around the volcano is now coated with thick, grey, smoking ash.

At least 69 people were confirmed dead by Tuesday, with the death toll expected to rise as more bodies are pulled from the ash. Soldiers wearing protective masks and heavy-soled boots continued to rescue as many people as they could, helping to evacuate them by helicopter from areas threatened by the still-erupting volcano. More than 3,000 were evacuated in the first 48 hours of the conflagration, with nearly two million people affected by the volcano’s eruption. Hundreds more were injured.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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