East Texas priest in Guatemala shares story from Sunday's volcano eruption

El Rodeo, Guatemala (KLTV) - Rainfall is complicating efforts to recover bodies in villages devastated by the eruption of Guatemala's Volcano of Fire.

Right now, the death toll is at 75 people since Sunday, and some residents say many remains may never be removed. Rains are now hardening the ash on the surface, making it difficult for crews to dig for remains.

Nearly 200 people are still missing after the eruption, but an East Texas priest in Guatemala says residents are still holding to their faith.

"Never, never occurred to me that that would happen," Father Charles Vreeland said.  

A week after Fr. Charles Vreeland arrival in Guatemala, "Volcan de Fuego" erupted.

80 miles away in a village called El Carrizal, Vreeland and other local priests were about to celebrate mass when they noticed ash falling from the sky.

"He kinda swept his feet across the ground to show me the very fine dust," Fr. Vreeland said. "And I'm like 'okay.' Eventually he explained to me that this is from the volcano."

Vreeland says he was not able to feel, see, or hear the eruption when it happened, but definitely felt the urgency to find out more about its destruction.

"Contrary to popular belief, because I myself had the misconception that lava only flows like molasses, which is completely untrue," Fr. Vreeland said. "It can flow extremely fast and that's exactly the case. I asked about how this was happening and people would actually be running as fast as they can, and the lava would overtake them." 

As the death toll continues to rise, Vreeland says he's amazed by the faith Guatemalans are showing during this time.

"They're really able to give thanks to God, and be grateful to God, in the good times and even in the difficult times," Fr. Vreeland said. "And that's a very powerful lesson that I am learning here from the people."

Father Vreeland says he has not been able to make a trip to help those in El Rodeo due to safety concerns.

However, he will be in Guatemala until August and says he hopes to visit and help those affected.

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