One dead in volcanic eruption in Guatemala

Friday, May 28, 2010

GUATEMALA CITY/QUITO - At least one reporter was killed in a volcanic eruption in the Central American state of Guatemala overnight Friday, officials reported.

The authorities did not immediately confirm two further deaths, which had been reported earlier.

Several people were injured in the eruption of the Pacaya volcano, and Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a state of emergency in the area, affecting the provinces of Guatemala and Esquintla.

Guatemala City, which is home to about 3 million people, also saw effects of the eruption. Ash and sand fell on the city, causing traffic chaos, and the airport was temporarily closed, until the sand could be removed from the runways. Lessons were suspended at schools and universities.

Television reporter Anibal Archila had travelled to the volcano with his team, in order to report on the eruption. He was hit and killed by falling debris.

In San Jose Calderas, San Francisco and other villages in the area, debris damaged the roofs of precarious houses. People ran out of their homes in panic, the daily La Prensa reported. The villages of El Rodeo and El Patrocinio, around five km away from the volcano, were also impacted by the eruption.

The country’s seismological institute Insivumeh said that the volcano shot ash more than 1,500 metres into the atmosphere. Around 1,800 people were evacuated to safety from the endangered region after the Pacaya volcano eruption.

The Pacaya, 2,500 metres high, is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. It lies 26 km south of Guatemala City.

Also Friday, Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported a volcanic eruption, which it described as “large” on the Tungurahua, 130 km from Quito.

The eruption of the Tungurahua, which stands 5,010 metres high, led to the evacuation of the nearby villages of Cusua and Juive Grande. Experts said the volcano let off a 7,000-metre-tall column of ash along with pyroclastic flow.

The Tungarahua’s eruptive process started in 1999, although the level of alert has varied since then. Four years ago, a strong eruption caused damage to roads and agriculture.

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