It has been nearly four months since Fuego erupted, causing extensive damage. In memory of those who lost their lives that June day and in recognition of those who continue suffering great losses, flowers and candles and quaint ceremonies were held in San Miguel Los Lotes on September 3. In the background, three bulldozer machines continued digging for human remains. September 15 was Guatemala’s Independence Day and a march was held by survivors from nearby communities. Many emotional moments were lived and shared when they filed into the village. Also, on September 28, the day of San Miguel was recognized with a march through what is left of the San Miguel Los Lotes village followed by a mass.
During the first week of September, the surviving families from San Miguel Los Lotes reached an agreement with the authorities that the government would grant an extension to permit continuing the search for missing bodies for 20 more days. This has since been extended. Bodies do continue to be found and even identified. Although no date is set, there has been word of anthropologists entering the scene soon to assist the process of finding and identifying more bodies. There are also discussions around possibly deciding to fence the destroyed villages off as a protected area, but no plans are yet certain.
On Saturday, September 22, 8 more people were buried. Over 200 bodies remain to be identified. The official number of people who have disappeared are 256 but families say the real number is much higher.
Nearly all of the survivors from San Miguel Los Lotes have now been moved to temporary wooden homes where they will stay until permanent houses have been built and are available. This could take 6 months …. to 2 years. The families from El Barrio will be the next in line for temporary wooden homes. The government has finally begun distributing funds to support the families from San Miguel Los Lotes and El Barrio. They have been handing out ~Q 3500 (~ USD $480) to families, yet some are still waiting to receive this support.
Vamos Adelante continues to support these families by distributing solar lamps (and providing brief training sessions on how to use and care for them). The families very much appreciate the lamps as the central solar power system in the temporary homes is turned off at certain hours and some houses still are not connected to the central power system at all.
Vamos Adelante also continues to hand out kitchen kits to the women. Being able to cook for themselves and their own families means returning to “normal” again: to sit together and have a cup of home-brewed coffee, talking about the latest events, about the past or just chatting with visiting family and friends. This seemingly-simple daily ritual has so much importance and helps to provide a bit more of a home feeling. For now, these families are cooking in the community kitchens in the temporary housing. Although they are must too small, more will be built so that families are better able to cook for themselves soon.
The Vamos Adelante promoters visit the temporary homes frequently to see how the families are doing. Several families have asked about the possibility of obtaining scholarships for their children in 2019 (the school year begins in January). This demand has prompted Vamos Adelante to plan to expand the education program for the next academic year.
The volcano is rather active and the rainy season is now in its strongest month meaning that much water and lahars are coming down almost daily. The Ruta Nacional 14, the big highway from Antigua to Escuintla that was partially rebuilt following the eruption, is open with reduced hours (from 6am to 2pm) but often remains completely closed due to the strong rains, volcanic activity and high risks of bridges collapsing, slides, etc. connected with these conditions.
During the first week of October, Vamos Adelante will visit a housing project built by Construcasa, a Dutch NGO that Vamos Adelante has partnered with to build good, solid homes over the years. After evaluating this project, Vamos Adelante may consider helping several families build new homes.
Vamos Adelante thanks all of you who have donated profoundly for your quick and most generous help following the eruption! During the coming months and years, with your support, Vamos Adelante is committed to supporting families who live off of their small plots of land and are affected by Fuego, particularly those in the highest villages on the slopes of the volcano.