This is People's Daily Tonight.
Life under a volcano
If you mention a burning volcano, catastrophe and danger might be the words that first appear in people's mind. Can you imagine life under an erupting volcano? Hundreds of thousands villagers residing near Antigua, a UNESCO-listed city in southwest Guatemala, must make peace every day with an active volcano, Volcano Fuego.
A corner of Antigua city, and Fuego Volcano embraced by clouds. (Photos: Li Lei/People's Daily)
Guatemala is a country that does not ring a bell for most Chinese people. You might need to search for information about it in your smartphone when the country is brought up. Located in the mountainous narrow strip area linking the North and South America, there are as many as 37 volcanos in the country. The active ones are Fuego, Pacaya, Santiaguito and Tacana.
Volcano Pacaya erupts.
Volcano Fuego and Pacaya are not far from each other in the southwest of Guatemala. I could see them puffing every day in the same vista when I was working on a China-contracted infrastructure project from 2014 to 2016 in Escuintla, which is a half-hour drive from Antigua.
Volcano Fuego seen from a street in Escuintla
Antigua is right under Volcano Fuego, which recently had its largest eruption in 40 years, leaving 63 dead, hundreds injured and tens of thousands homeless. According to a survivor, two villages on the mountain side were engulfed by the fallen ash. People died in their homes and on their way to escape.
Before the disaster, there were dozens of villages built on the middle of the huge volcanic cone. Villagers there were living in paradise with a pleasant environment, agreeable climate and fertilized land attributed to the rich volcano soil. Crops included a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and cash crops such as coffee beans, sugarcane and corn grow on the land.
Lush plants and trees nourished by the volcanic soil
Homegrown fruits sold by villages at a fair in Antigua city
As an active volcano, the Fuego Volcano puffs white smoke almost 24 hours a day. In the clear night of dry season, it was magnificent to see red sparks splashing out from the crater. The villagers seemed to never anticipate that one day their huge neighbor would get so furious, since it releases its “anger and pressure” everyday.
The Fuego Volcano erupts every day.
In the slack seasons, men would work in the factories nearby and women take their homegrown fruit to the fair in Antigua, which is filled with tourists from all over the world all year round. Nourished by the bright tropical sunshine, people there are content and passionate. They dance salsa on the street, and call you amigo or amiga (“friend” in Spanish) even if you are totally a stranger to them.
Daily life of villagers under the volcano during slack season.
A dog enjoys sunshine lying on the volcanic soil.
The sudden rage of Fuego has put an end to the happy life of the volcano’s neighbors by taking their homes, land and families.
After the disaster, the Guatemalan authorities and civilians have organized rescue evacuations and resettlement in the area of damage. Food, water, clothes, medicine and other materials donated by the people have been delivered to temporary shelters set in Escuintla.
Although the people’s homeland is destroyed, people’s faith will not be shattered. May the dead find peace and the survivors find strength to rebuild their homeland. Smiles and happy salsa dancing will return to this land, one day. Animo amigos!
(Produced by Ni Tao and Qu Qiuyan; ariticle written by Li Lei, with inputs from Jeniffer Chang)