Atlanta/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 26, 2024
Gwinnett County Man Vanishes While Hiking Guatemala's Volcán de AcatenangoSource: X/Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo -INGUAT-

A Gwinnett County man, Zain Waliany, 26, has reportedly gone missing while hiking the treacherous slopes of Guatemala's Volcán de Acatenango, last known to be at an altitude of 12,700 feet. The local authorities, aided by friends and family members, are urgently scouring the mountain in an attempt to locate him. Emen Waliany, Zain's sister, confirmed that the last contact anyone had with Zain was at 8 a.m. on May 21, in a statement obtained by FOX 5.

Hiking with a friend on May 21, the pair decided to separate due to the demanding nature of the ascent with plans to reconvene later. After phones of both hikers died, Zain failed to return to the agreed meeting spot at base camp. "I’m trying to think positive. I'm trying to think. I'm going to get a result as soon as possible," Emen Waliany, his sister, reportedly told FOX 5 after flying out to join the search efforts in Guatemala.

The friend of Zain reportedly waited for around three hours before seeking help, eventually calling the authorities after reaching a local store. His disappearance has sparked a broad response, with searches on foot and the deployment of dogs, described by a family friend in her exchange with FOX 5. Recognized for its breathtaking view of the nearby Fuego Volcano, the hike up Volcán de Acatenango is considered a powerful magnet for adventure seekers. Yet the environment also bears challenges like steep inclines and the possibility of altitude sickness.

"What we’re really hoping for is for drones or helicopters to be sent, so we can have more access to the area," Emen Waliany said, indicating the vast and difficult terrain that rescuers must navigate, as told by FOX 5. The hike typically done in two stages, sees adventurers trek to a base camp and then proceed to the summit early the next morning. The family, according to a report by Atlanta News First, has set up a GoFundMe to finance the massive search operation, with additional funds earmarked for donation to Fly the Phoenix, a charity working in Guatemala.

The Guatemalan Institute of Tourism has confirmed the disappearance of Waliany, whose intended route included a solo hike. As per Atlanta News First, the search is expanding beyond the trails, with pleas directed towards the public for any information regarding Waliany's whereabouts. Shivika Kandhal, a friend of Zain Waliany, has appealed for public assistance, praising Zain's character: "This is a man who would do anything for his family and friends," underscoring the urgency and the dedicated communal effort being poured into the ongoing search.