At least 25 people were killed, 20 others injured and some 1.7 million residents have been affected by the eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano, the most violent in recent years, according to government authorities.
The volcanic eruption on Sunday spewed a river of red, hot lava and belched thick clouds of smoke nearly 10,000 metres above sea level, CNN quoted the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) as saying.
It urged residents living near the volcano to evacuate immediately and warned residents of the towns of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla to watch out for volcanic rocks and ash.
More than 3,100 people have been evacuated from their homes while search and rescue efforts continue into the night, Sergio García Cabanas, director of Conred, said on Sunday night.
So far, 15 people been have been hospitalised, including 12 children, some of whom suffered severe burns, according to the Health Ministry.
The volcano, whose name means fire, is one of Central America’s most active. It is located near the colonial city of Antigua.
Sunday’s explosion rained soot over the popular tourist destination and other villages in the Sacatepequez department, covering them in ash.
Villages south of the volcano in the Escuintla department were affected, too, Cabañas said. Lesser amounts of ash reached the capital of Guatemala City some 25 miles away, forcing the closure of the La Aurora International Airport.
The Guatemalan Army shared images of officers clearing the runway with brooms.
An orange, or prevention, alert has been declared nationwide, reports Efe news.
Explosions are still coming from the volcano, said Eddy Sanchez, director of the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology.
He warned of mudslides as rainfall continues, and urged people to stay off roads close to the volcano.