maye-e wongComment

AP Photojournalist captures immensity of "Volcano of Fire" destruction

maye-e wongComment
AP Photojournalist captures immensity of "Volcano of Fire" destruction

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?

Volcanic ash blankets the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire," June 5, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Escuintla, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Cows lie dead amid steam rising from the hot volcanic ash following a light rain, on June 6, 2018, near the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire," in San Miguel Los Lotes, Escuintla, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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.

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.

Elmer Vazquez stands amid volcanic ash and dust as he searches for the remains of his wife and five children who were killed by the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, at his home buried in volcanic ash in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala, June 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Steam rises from the devastated terrain on June 13, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Steam continues to rise more than a week after the deadly Volcano of Fire eruption that killed more than 100 people. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Steam rises from the devastated terrain on June 13, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Steam continues to rise more than a week after the deadly Volcano of Fire eruption that killed more than 100 people. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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.

A forensic worker stands while another rests next to body bags containing the remains of victims of the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, eruption, in a cinderblock warehouse converted into a makeshift morgue on June 8, 2018, in Escuintla, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Villagers walk towards the cemetery with the remains of four people who died due to the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, on June 10, 2018, in San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Residents and cemetery workers listen to an evangelical pastor during the burial of 70-year-old Juan Toma Lopez, on June 18, 2018, who died during the eruption of the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, San Juan Alotenango, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


A military chaplain reads the Bible to Francisca Nij and her brother Francisco during the wake for their mother Maritza Nij Ramos Davila, 40, on June 7, 2018, in Alotenango, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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.

Relatives of volcano victims watch a bulldozer during search and recovery efforts on June 12, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Kitchen utensils are coated with volcanic ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego or Volcano of Fire, on June 9, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


A pick-up truck sits on a pile of volcanic ash spewed from the Volcan de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire" on June 19, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Apparel hung on a clothesline are covered in volcanic ash outside a home in the disaster zone near the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire, on June 6 in San Miguel Los Lotes, Escuintla, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Marlene Vazquez, right, rests next to her cousin Silas Vazquez, as she holds a portrait of their cousins, killed by the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala on June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Marlene Vazquez, right, rests next to her cousin Silas Vazquez, as she holds a portrait of their cousins, killed by the Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire eruption, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala on June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Family portraits burnt by volcanic ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego or Volcano of Fire hang on the wall of a house on June 8, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Angelica Maria Alvarez rests, exhausted, inside her home destroyed by the eruption of the the Volcan de Fuego or "Volcano of Fire," June 14, 2018, in San Miguel Los Lotes, Guatemala. Alvarez is still searching for the remains of more than 10 family members, including her husband and two daughters. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

 

Text from the AP news story, AP Photojournalist portrays volcano's devastation.

Photos by Rodrigo Abd

Rodrigo Abd on Instagram