“It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints," Garcia added.
The volcano spewed a five-mile stream of red-hot lava. Some bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues.
Local television footage showed residents of villages walking through the streets, caskets hoisted on their shoulders.
Hilda Lopez said her mother and sister were still missing after the slurry of hot gas, ash and rock roared into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes.
"We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming," the distraught woman told the Associated Press. "We didn't believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street."
Using shovels and backhoes, emergency workers dug through the debris and mud, perilous labor on smoldering terrain still hot enough to melt shoe soles a day after the volcano exploded.
The quick-moving pyroclastic flow — a mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas moving at high speed down volcanic slopes — surprised some residents.
“Not everybody could leave — I’d say they were left buried,” Consuelo Hernández, a resident of the town of El Rodeo near the volcano, told el Periodico newspaper.
“Where we live the lava was coming down an alleyway … we ran to a hillside. If there are people buried, the lava came over the plots of land and streets.”