Guatemala volcano: primary school is destroyed and community mourns the loss of 12 students

Guatemala School After Eruption New
San Miguel Los Lotes School was buried in hot ash after the volcano erupted (HOPE Worldwide,

Children's welfare after natural disasters, Education in emergencies

The Fuego volcano erupted more than two weeks ago in Guatemala. But the search is still on for schoolchildren who were caught up in the disaster.

Twelve students from the San Miguel Los Lotes School are known to have been among at least 110 people who died when lava flowed from the 12,000ft mountain and gas and ash devastated local communities.

Another 168 of the primary school’s students have been found alive and 60 are still unaccounted for after the series of eruptions.

“We are hopeful that the 60 are in unregistered shelters or have simply left the area and are with family in other areas of the country,” Dave Tomlinson of the charity HOPE Worldwide told Their News from Guatemala.

“We have heard of several instances of families going to other areas.”

HOPE Worldwide has been supporting the government-run school in San Miguel Los Lotes for two years – helping teachers and students with materials, educational programmes, medicine and food.

The school was severely damaged by the volcanic eruptions, which sent gas and ash thousands of feet into the sky and scattered an incredibly hot cloud of debris, known as a pyroclastic flow. 

The disaster happened on a Sunday, so the school was not being used.

“It is unlikely that it will be rebuilt in the same area,” said Tomlinson, who is HOPE’s Director of Disaster Response for North America and the Caribbean.

“But if it’s rebuilt in an area we can support, we will absolutely work with the school in a new location.”

Guatemala Eruption Main

HOPE Worldwide’s pictures show the primary school before and after the disaster (HOPE Worldwide,

It is crucial in the wake of a natural disaster to get children back into school as quickly as possible.

Emergencies can disrupt a child’s education for months or even years. This means they miss out on vital learning and are deprived of a safe place when they are in very traumatic situations.

The charity Plan International is working to ensure that children staying in temporary shelters are protected from potential abuse and get emotional support.

“School and social activities have been disrupted, leading to a loss of children’s sense of security and stability,” said John Lundine, Country Director of Plan International Guatemala.

“Children have become orphaned, lost family members and their homes and separated from their families.”

Volocano Fuego Eruption

(UNHCR / Pablo Aaron Villagran Castellanos)

Lundine said Plan International will help to restore education for children whose schools were damaged or destroyed.

Schools and community halls in the area around the Fuego volcano are being used as shelters for more than 3600 people who lost their homes. HOPE Worldwide Guatemala’s medical staff expect to treat up to injured 200 survivors.

Guatemalan authorities this week called off the official search for nearly 200 people missing since the volcano erupted on June 3 about 22 miles southwest of the capital Guatemala City.

The hunt had centred around the hardest-hit communities of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Recreo.

David de Leon, a spokesman for the government’s civil protection agency, said the decision was taken “due to the fact that the area is uninhabitable and of high risk”.

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