AP PHOTOS: AP photojournalist portrays volcano's devastation

SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala (AP) — They call it the Volcano of Fire, one of the most active volcanoes in the Americas, frequently spewing ash and gas across a swath of Guatemala west of the capital. On June 3, the mountain erupted with a fury not seen in more than a century, exploding with 1,300-degree molten rocks and black clouds of ash that smothered villages and buried at least 194 people alive. An additional 234 are missing.

Rodrigo Abd was among the Associated Press photojournalists who arrived on the scene. As he covered the news, he considered how to capture the sweep of the volcano's destructive power and the magnitude of the human drama that unfolded in minutes. How to document the tragedy — of lives and a landscape obliterated — on a piece of 35mm film?

Abd decided that the panoramic format was necessary to tell this story of annihilation. Black and white film would best show ash-encased villages such as San Miguel Los Lotes.

19 PHOTOS
Photojournalist portrays volcano's devastation
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Photojournalist portrays volcano's devastation
In this June 13, 2018 photo, Marlene Vazquez, right, sits next to her cousin Silas Vazquez, with a portrait of their cousins who were killed in the Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. On June 3, a typical Sunday, the town was quickly buried under a wave of hot ash, rocks and debris, creating a scene of death and desperation. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 13, 2018 photo, steam rises from the terrain in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala devastated by an eruption of the Volcano of Fire, pictured in the background. On June 3, the mountain erupted with a fury not seen in more than a century. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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In this June 6, 2018 photo, animal carcasses lie entwined as steam caused by the hot volcanic ash rises on the horizon, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. On Sunday, June 3, the Volcano of Fire erupted, obliterating the surrounding landscape. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 14, 2018 photo, an exhausted Angelica Maria Alvarez takes a breather inside her home that was destroyed by Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Ten days after the volcano blew, Alvarez continued looking for her husband, two daughters, and more than nine relatives in a house turned to twisted iron and hot ashes. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 7, 2018 photo, a military chaplain attempts to comfort survivors Francisca Nij and her brother Francisco, during their mother's wake, who died in the deadly Volcano of Fire eruption, in Alotenango, Guatemala. The June 3 eruption killed 194 people. Another 234 are officially missing, although organizations supporting the communities have insisted there are thousands of missing persons. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This June 8, 2018 photo shows a dining room set interred in a mass of volcanic ash spewed by the Volcano of Fire, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. On June 3 the town was quickly buried under a wave of hot ash, rocks and debris, when the volcano erupted with a fury, exploding with 1,300-degree molten rocks and black clouds of ash. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 6, 2018 photo, residents look through family photos found on the ash covered ground outside a home destroyed by the Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Two days after the Volcano of Fire June 3 eruption, the terrain was still too hot in many places for rescue crews to search for bodies or — increasingly unlikely with each passing day — survivors. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This June 19, 2018 photo shows a bare tree standing amid ash, rock and debris in the aftermath of the fast-moving avalanche of super-heated muck created by the Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. What was once a collection of verdant canyons, hillsides and farms now resembled a moonscape. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 14, 2018 photo, Elmer Vazquez stands amid clouds of hot ash as a backhoe digs where he thought his home might of been, in the search for the remains of his family, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Vazquez was out walking, looking at his garden plots, when the Volcano of Fire erupted on June 3. His wife was at the house cooking lunch, and their five children would be at their too, finishing their homework. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This June 9, 2018 photo shows kitchen utensils covered in a coat of volcanic ash spewed by the Volcano of Fire, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Days after the devastating June 3 eruption, signs of that calm Sunday morning were evident, frozen in time under the ash. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 12, 2018 photo, relatives of volcano victims watch a bulldozer dig during search and recovery efforts in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Six months after what is now being called "The Colossus," relatives still seek missing family members by their own means, as the government and relief agencies have ended their search for the dead. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 19, 2018 photo, a pick-up truck sits on a pile of volcanic ash spewed from the Volcano of Fire, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Destroyed residential areas were officially declared inhabitable, with locals left to seek new lives elsewhere after the June 3 eruption. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This June 6, 2018 photo shows the day's laundry blanketed in volcanic ash hanging on a clothesline outside a home on the flanks of the Volcano of Fire, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Authorities say they were closely monitoring the volcano after activity picked up around 6 a.m. Sunday, June 3. But there was no indication that any eruption would be any worse than previous ones, and no evacuations were ordered. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
This June 8, 2018 photo shows dozens of victims of the Volcano of Fire eruption wrapped in white body bags in a cinderblock warehouse converted into a makeshift morgue, in Escuintla, Guatemala. Outside the morgue, anxious relatives waited for the results of DNA tests to see if their loved ones were among those inside. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 10, 2018 photo, residents walk towards the cemetery carrying the coffins that contain the remains of residents who died in the Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala. The explosion devastated entire families living in tightly knit communities on the mountain's flanks. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 18, 2018 photo, residents attend the burial of 70-year-old Juan Toma Lopez, who died during the eruption of the Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala. On June 3, the mountain erupted with a fury not seen in more than a century. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 17, 2018 photo, relatives of volcano victims watch a backhoe dig during search and recovery efforts in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Six months after what is now being called "The Colossus," relatives still seek missing family members by their own means, as the government and relief agencies have ended their search for the dead. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this June 13, 2018 photo, steam rises from the terrain in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala devastated by an eruption of the Volcano of Fire. On June 3, the mountain erupted with a fury not seen in more than a century. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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Peering through his lens, and through clouds of hot ash, he found Elmer Vazquez searching for his wife and five children where he thought the family home had been. The farmer looked destroyed as he climbed into pits dug by a backhoe whenever he saw human remains or bits of torn clothing that could have belonged to his family.

In a makeshift morgue, dozens of victims' bodies wrapped in white bags formed a kind of silent corridor that ended with two exhausted forensic doctors taking a break after days and nights of continuous work.

Outside the morgue, anxious relatives waited for the results of DNA tests to see if their loved ones were among those inside, while others prepared to hold dignified burials in the town cemetery.

In San Miguel Los Lotes, the drama did not end in those first days. Ten days after the volcano blew, Angelica Maria Alvarez continued looking for her husband, two daughters and more than nine relatives in a house turned to twisted iron and hot ash.

Six months after what is now being called "The Colossus," relatives still seek missing family members by their own means, as the government and relief agencies have ended their search for the dead.

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