Thousands flee as Guatemala's Fuego volcano threatens more eruptions

Staff and agencies
The Fuego volcano erupted in June, killing at least 194 people – possibly hundreds more: AP

Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area surrounding the Fuego volcano in Guatemala amid fears of further eruptions after red-hot rock and ash threatened lives and homes when it erupted on Sunday.

Burning lava burst as high as 3,200ft into the sky, and flows of boiling debris ran nearly two miles down one side of the volcano – the latest in a string of eruptions.

A column of ash rose nearly 23,000ft above sea level and drifted towards Guatemala City nearly 20 miles away.

Experts said explosions shook homes with “constant sounds similar to a train locomotive”.

The Fuego volcano already devastated the area earlier this year, and could expel more dangerous flows of hot ash and lava, according to Juan Pablo Oliva, head of the country’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute Insivumeh.

Nearly 4,000 people heeded the call of disaster coordination authorities to evacuate 10 communities, taking school buses to reach shelters.

The Fuego – also known as the Volcano of Fire – is one of the most active in Central America, and an eruption in June killed 194 people. Another 234 are officially missing, although organisations supporting the communities have insisted thousands are missing.

This is the fifth eruption so far this year of the 12,346ft volcano, one of the most active in Central America. Its mixtures of ash, rock, mud and debris can bury entire towns.

Guatemala’s national institute for seismology, volcanology and meteorology believes the ash could travel around up to 20 miles southwest and northeast from the volcano’s summit.

A village that lies at the foot of the volcano decided at a meeting to send only women away, the disaster coordinator said.