A volcano has erupted in Guatemala, killing at least 25 people as it sweeps over three towns. Officials have warned that the death toll is expected to rise, reports the Independent.
Volcan de Fuego, situated on the borders of Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepéquez, sent out an 8km stream of lava, with smoke and ash surrounding the area.
The volcano’s name translates as ‘Volcano of Fire’.
According to estimates from rescue agencies, around 300 people are believed to have been injured. At present, authorities remain unable to account for an undetermined number of people, with whole villages as yet still unaccounted for.
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“The toll was 25 dead as of 9pm (1pm AEST),” said spokesman for the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred), via a WhatsApp group message, according to news.com.au.
“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” survivor Consuelo Hernandez told
CNN. “We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields and we ran towards a hill.”
Hernandez added that some of her relatives had been buried during the eruption.
CNN also reports that some firefighters wept at the scene.
The volcano erupted shortly before noon (4am BST), with lava beginning to flow down from the mountain at around 4pm (11pm BST). This is the second major eruption from Volcan de Fuego this year.
The director of the country’s seismology and volcanology institute, Eddy Sanchez, said the lava had hit temperatures in the region of 700C.
Local residents were urged to evacuate immediately, with some communities in the neighbouring states of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla warned to be wary of volcanic rocks and ash.
According to the country’s disaster agency, 3100 people had been evacuated from nearby communities, as falling ash continues to affect an area with a population of roughly 1.7 million. Those forced to flee were welcomed into shelters.
Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales has now declared three days of national mourning.
Condolences came in from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said: “All our solidarity and support to the President Jimmy Morales and the Guatemalan people for the loss of human life after the eruption of the Volcano of Fire.”
Solidarity was also expressed by the President of El Salvador, Israel’s ambassador to Guatemala and the Mayor of Puerto Rico.
Volcan de Fuego is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. An eruption in 2012 saw 33,000 people evacuated from 17 villages as lava poured 600 metres down the side of the mountain.