THE day after landing in Guatamala during the trip of a lifetime to South America, two friends from the Isle of Wight found themselves in the middle of a disaster zone.

When the Fuego volcano erupted on Sunday, sending molten rock streaming down the mountainside and burying surrounding villages in volcanic ash and mud, Nita Lillywhite and Naomi Cooper teamed up with fellow travellers at their Antigua hostel to help the relief effort.

"The whole hostel came together. Fourteen of us went to three different villages. We raised £1,500 for food from everyone contacting their friends and family," Nita told the Isle of Wight County Press this week.

"Naomi stayed to cook and make sandwiches, while I went with a team of volunteers to take supplies and aid to the villages.

"A whole bunch of us are going to the hospital to give blood."

Guatamalan officials say the death toll has reached 75 and around 200 people are missing following the disaster.

More than 1.7 million people have been affected and more than 3,000 evacuated from their homes.

Nita said she did not realise how serious the situation was at first and, when the reality hit her, she did not have time to be scared.

"The volcano is about 25 miles from the city. I was walking through the town thinking it was raining until I realised it was volcanic ash," she said.

"We were confused about what was happening. We could see the volcano erupting from our hostel roof and raining volcanic ash on us. I was walking through the streets caked in ash trying to make sure everyone was safe.

"It wasn’t until the next morning when my parents and friends were checking I was safe that I realised how serious it was."

Public transport was cancelled and, in the chaos on the streets, Nita saw a pregnant woman go into labour due to the trauma.

"She was 27 weeks pregnant. They couldn’t take her to hospital as there was no room — it was full of victims laying on the floor so they had to send her to a shelter. It was heartbreaking," said Nita.

"I'll never know what happened to her."

Both Nita and Naomi, who have been travelling the world together for the past 12 years, work in healthcare — Nita, 38, of Priory Road, Carisbrooke, is a cook at Westview House, Totland, and Naomi, 34, of Pan Meadows, Newport, works for the Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group.

They have urged people to support the Guatamalan relief effort at www.gofundme.com/97ry2x-help-for-guatemala