Pacaya volcano near Guatemala City covers streets in ash, forces shutdown at airport

By Juan Carlos Llorca, AP
Friday, May 28, 2010

Volcanic ash shuts down Guatemala City airport

GUATEMALA CITY — Authorities closed Guatemala’s international airport Thursday after the nearby Pacaya volcano showered as much as 3 inches (8 centimeters) of ash over parts of the city.

La Aurora airport would be closed at least until noon Friday, and possibly longer, said Angel Perez, a spokesman for the Central American country’s Civil Aeronautics Office.

The volcano is about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of the Guatemalan capital.

Two to three inches of ash accumulated on streets in some southern parts of the city, and officials imposed limits on trucks and motorcycles to help speed up traffic slowed by the ash.

The government urged residents not to leave their homes unless there was an urgent need, and issued a state-of-disaster declaration, making it easier to disburse funds to deal with the problem.

Two villages near the peak were evacuated, with dozen of residents taken to shelters or relatives’ homes to wait out the eruption, said David de Leon a spokesman for the national disaster committee.

Local media reported that volcanic rock fell on the evacuated villages, smashing car windshields. Eruptions began several days ago.

The most active of Guatemala’s 32 volcanos, Pacaya has been intermittently erupting since 1966, and tourists frequently visit areas near three lava flows formed in eruptions between 1989 and 1991.

In 1998, the 8,373-foot (2,552-meter) volcano twice spewed plumes of ash, forcing evacuations and shutting down the airport in Guatemala City.

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