Rescue efforts continuing after Guatemala volcano eruption

Ash-covered cars

Ash-covered cars

Pope Francis said he is praying for the dead and for all those affected by a powerful volcanic eruption in Guatemala in which at least 69 people have died.

"We already have data with names and locations where there are missing persons and that number is 192", Sergio Cabanas, head of Guatemala's disaster management agency, told reporters.

Rescuers search for victims of the Fuego Volcano in the ash-covered village of San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala.

The institute said there was a moderate flow of unsafe volcanic material down the volcano, and warned of the possibility of a strong flow in some areas.

"We are analyzing the terrain", said David de Leon, spokesperson for the disaster agency Conred.

The explosions billowed ash more than 5,000m (16,000ft) above sea level, with Guatemala's seismology and volcanology institute warning that there is a moderate flow of risky material down the volcano - with the possibility of a strong flow in some areas.

An AFP photographer saw a large plume of ash rise into the sky, prompting an evacuation of everyone authorities could find before the police, the military and rescuers were ordered to stand down.

The new evacuation order set off a panic even in areas that were not under it. Dozens of people could be seen walking down roadsides carrying children or a few belongings beside paralysed traffic in parts of Escuintla township south of the volcano.

After a drone survey, police managed to reach a farm where a home had been buried and people were believed to have been trapped inside.

Authorities say more than 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, with more than 3,000 evacuated and many living in shelters.

The official number of those missing now stands at 192, a preliminary figure because nobody knows how many people were on the mountain when El Fuego erupted on Sunday around midday.

Experts say this eruption is the biggest since 1974.

These funds will help "Guatemala Red Cross support 3,000 of the most vulnerable survivors for three months", they added.

The peak had its most devastating eruption in more than four decades on Sunday, showering ash on a wide area and sending lava flows through nearby towns. "We are talking about a tragedy, a national mourning", Guatemala President Jimmy Morales said.

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