Thousands evacuated as Guatemala volcano erupts again


Authorities in Guatemala declared a red alert and evacuated around 4 000 people early Monday after the Central American country’s fiery Fuego volcano erupted for the fifth time this year, sending bursts of ash and lava down the mountain.

Memories of the previous volcano’s eruption in June are still vivid, it swept away villages and left approximately 200 people dead and 235 missing. It last erupted in early November, however, it did not cause any damage but experts have become increasingly concerned about renewed activity inside the volcano since Sunday.

A spokesman for Guatemala’s disaster management agency CONRED said it decided to evacuate the municipality of Escuintla and two other districts. About 4 000 people were taken to temporary shelters as a safety measure

Dozens of residents are being taken to a sports stadium in Escuintla where they are sheltered in tents.

The spokesman, David de Leon, said the eruption became increasingly violent after it began Sunday morning, leading to fears for the safety of the thousands of people who live on the slopes of the 3 763 meters (12,246 feet) high mountain.

A column of ash rose about 1 000 meters above the crater and areas west of the volcano — 35 kilometres from Guatemala City — were under a barrage of gas ash and fiery rocks, the Conred said.

The state’s institute of volcanology has revealed that it was concerned the ash particles from the volcano could reach the colonial tourist city of Antigua Guatemala.  The institute’s director Pablo Oliva said the volcano was expected to remain “at a high to very high level” of activity, but was unable to say when it would subside.

A previous eruption on October 12-13 was characterized by increasingly loud booms and lava flow. On that occasion, 62 people were evacuated from their homes as a precaution and a highway around the mountain was closed.

Many of those evacuated on Monday said they had feared a repeat of the deadly June eruption.

“We were scared and that’s why we evacuated,” said Miriam Garcia, from the village of El Rodeo which was largely spared the deadly eruption.

“You have to get out as soon as possible because when that (volcanic material) comes close, you no longer have time to leave, even if you run, because it comes very fast,” said Oscar Juarez from El Rodeo.

Activity inside Guatemala’s two other volcanoes, Pacaya and Santiaguito, has increased in recent months, however, they have not entered the eruptive phase.




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