Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences says 17 of the dead identified but DNA samples will be used to identify those who lost "features or their fingerprints" from red-hot flows of Fuego volcano eruption.
Guatemalan authorities increased the confirmed death toll from the eruption of the Fuego volcano (or Volcano of Fire) to 69 as officials suspended the search until dawn on Tuesday.
Officials said just 17 had been identified so far because the intense heat of the volcanic debris flows left most bodies unrecognisable.
"It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints" from the red-hot flows, said Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences.
"We are going to have to resort to other methods ... and if possible take DNA samples to identify them."
In addition, officials said, there are 46 people injured, most of them seriously, more than 1.7 million being hit by the disaster, including 3,271 ordered evacuated and 1,787 in shelters in the departments of Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango since Sunday's eruption.
TRT World spoke with journalist Louisa Reynolds in Antigua, close to the scene of the eruption.
Residents caught off guard
The 3,763-metre volcano eruption caught residents of remote mountain hamlets off guard, with little or no time to flee to safety.
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 in a hail of ash, smoke and molten rock.
Bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues. Rescuers used sledgehammers to break through the roofs of houses buried in debris up to their rooflines to check for anyone trapped inside.
Hilda Lopez, a survivor, 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, just below the mountain's flanks.
"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 said. "We didn't believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street."
"My mother was stuck there, she couldn't get out," said Lopez, weeping and holding her face in her hands.
TRT World's Phillip Owira has more.
'It traveled much faster'
David de Leon, spokesman of Conred disaster agency, said the volcano first erupted around midday Sunday, billowing smoke and ash miles into the sky. Then around 2 pm, came a new, more powerful explosion.
Soon, searing flows of lava, ash and rock mixed with water and debris were gushing down the volcano's flanks, blocking roads and burning homes.
"It traveled much faster. It arrived in communities right when the evacuation alerts were being sent out," de Leon said.
"There are missing persons, but we do not know how many," said Sergio Cabanas of the disaster management agency. A roll call of communities on the slopes of the volcano was under way.
The speed and ferocity of the eruption took mountain communities by surprise, with many of the dead found in or around their homes.
Cabanas said those who were killed had been overrun by fast-moving burning material discharged by the volcano on Sunday. Communities located on its southern slope were the worst hit. Several of the dead were children.
Authorities scrambled to issue an evacuation order. Some communities emptied out safely. But in places like Los Lotes and the village of El Rodeo, about eight miles downslope from the crater, it was too late for many.
The fast-moving flows overtook people in homes and streets with temperatures reaching as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 Celsius), and hot ash and volcanic gases that can cause rapid asphyxiation.
In El Rodeo on Monday, heavily armed soldiers wearing blue masks to avoid breathing in ash stood guard behind yellow tape cordoning off the disaster scene. Helmeted workers carried bodies away on stretchers, and smoke was still rising from some parts of the ashen landscape strewn with boulders and other debris.
Emergency crews in helicopters managed to pull at least 10 people alive from areas cut off by the flows. Conred said 3,271 people had been evacuated.
UN saddened by the loss of life
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply saddened by the "tragic loss of life and the significant damage caused by the eruption," and said the UN was ready to assist national rescue and relief efforts.
President Jimmy Morales, who has declared three days of national mourning, visited the disaster zone.
Fuego has been erupting since 2002, and was continuously active in 2017. There were explosions and ash plumes and a volcanic mudflow last month.