Lava flows at Guatemala volcano prompt more evacuations

EL RODEO, Guatemala, June 8 (Reuters) - Dangerous flows of lava, ash and toxic gases poured down several canyons below the crater of Guatemala's Fuego volcano on Friday, prompting a new round of evacuations of rescue workers and nearby villages.

At least 109 people have already died in a series of eruptions that began with a massive blast on Sunday and since then have showered ash over a vast area, spewing deadly, fast-moving pyroclastic flows.

In two of the canyons where flows have accumulated, columns of ash rose as high as 19,700 feet (6,000 meters), according to a Friday morning statement from Guatemala's volcanic institute.

"The (flows) carry hot vapor, including fine particles similar to cement, two- to three-meter diameter rocks and tree trunks dragged out by the current," the statement added.

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Guatemalan region covered in ash after volcanic eruption
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Guatemalan region covered in ash after volcanic eruption
Picture taken in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was also flooded with hot mud that descended from the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018 two days after the eruption. - Rescue workers search more bodies from under the dust and rubble left by an explosive eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, bringing the death toll to at least 69. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was also flooded with hot mud that descended from the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018 two days after the eruption. - Rescue workers search more bodies from under the dust and rubble left by an explosive eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, bringing the death toll to at least 69. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was also flooded with hot mud that descended from the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018 two days after the eruption. - Rescue workers search more bodies from under the dust and rubble left by an explosive eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, bringing the death toll to at least 69. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, which was also flooded with hot mud that descended from the Fuego Volcano, in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 5, 2018 two days after the eruption. - Rescue workers search more bodies from under the dust and rubble left by an explosive eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, bringing the death toll to at least 69. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescue worker is pictured among the debris in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, in Escuintla department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, two days after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano, on June 5, 2018. - Rescue workers pulled more bodies from under the dust and rubble left by an explosive eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano, bringing the death toll to at least 69. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
View of the damage casued by the eruption of the Fuego Volcano in San Miguel Los Lotes, a village in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, taken on June 4, 2018. - At least 25 people were killed, according to the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred), when Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupted Sunday, belching ash and rock and forcing the airport to close. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers gather next to a roof covered in ash at an area affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano in the community of San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, Guatemala June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria
Smoke billows from the ashes in San Miguel Los Lotes, a village in Escuintla Department, about 35 km southwest of Guatemala City, on June 4, 2018, a day after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano. - At least 25 people were killed, according to the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred), when Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupted Sunday, belching ash and rock and forcing the airport to close. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
ALOTENANGO, GUATEMALA - JUNE 05: A firefighter is seen while he is searching along with other firefighters for their missing colleague in the area affected by the volcanic eruption in Alotenango, Guatemala on June 05, 2018. At least 69 people have been killed and many others were injured when the Fuego Volcano, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital Guatemala City, erupted on Monday. (Photo by Fabricio Alonzo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The flows sparked panic among rescue workers still in the area, as well as volunteers and police.

Search and rescue efforts were formally suspended on Thursday due to hazardous conditions, though authorities said they could resume if the situation improves.

Along a closed highway that connects the towns of El Rodeo and San Miguel los Lotes, around 25 people, many with picks and shovels, waited to resume the search for the missing.

The death toll from Fuego's most violent eruption in four decades has been gradually rising as rescue teams scoured the ravaged landscape, which is coated in ash.

The U.S. government said it was sending emergency aid at Guatemala's request, while Mexican authorities sent doctors to help survivors with severe burns, at least seven of whom, in critical condition, were transferred across the border into Mexico.

The death toll from Fuego, which means "fire" in Spanish, is expected to rise further as more bodies are found.

"If the search is not going to be continued (authorities) should send us help because even if it's just bones, we want our families back," said Eufemia Garcia, a 47-year-old housewife who estimated 50 members of her extended family are still missing. (Additional reporting by Carlos Jasso; Writing by David Alire Garcia, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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