At least 25 dead as volcano erupts in Guatemala


A volcano erupted in Guatemala on Sunday, killing dozens and injuring hundreds of people, and officials fear that toll could rise.

While it's called a ring, Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at Concord University in West Virginia, says the volcanoes are not really connected.

"The toll was 25 dead as of 9pm (1pm AEST)", the spokesman for the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) said in a WhatsApp group.

People flee El Rodeo village, Escuintla department, 35 km south of Guatemala City, after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano on June 3, 2018. Temperatures of the lava flows reached as high as 700 degrees Celsius, making identification extremely hard.

Rescue workers walk on rooftops in Escuintla, Guatemala, blanketed with heavy ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire", pictured in the background, left center.

Survivor Consuelo Hernandez told the disaster agency some of her relatives were buried.

"Where we saw the lava fall, we ran to a hillside" to escape, she said.

More than 3,100 people have been evacuated and 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, according to CONRED.

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"There are missing persons, but we do not know how many", said Sergio Cabanas of the disaster management agency.

Eddy Sánchez, the director of Guatemala's National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, tells the newspaper Diario de Centroamerica that ash was falling north and east of the volcano, in San Luca, Antigua Guatemala, Alotenango, Chimaltenago and Zaragoza. Ash reached up to more than 6km.

Residents of the nearby towns are no strangers to volcanic activity. The ring of fire stretches along the border of the ocean, from the western end of the Americas to the Philippines.

One of Central America's most active volcanos, the conical Volcan de Fuego reaches an altitude of 12,346 feet (3,763 meters) above sea level at its peak.

It is near the colonial city of Antigua. Sunday's explosion rained soot over the popular tourist destination and other villages in the Sacatepéquez department, covering them in ash. "When the lava was already here they passed by in their pickup trucks telling us to leave, but the cars did not stop to pick up the people", Rafael Letran said, a resident of El Rodeo.

The runway was closed due to the presence of volcanic ash and in order to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala's civil aviation authority said in a Tweet.

The President of El Salvador offered his condolences via Twitter and said his country stood ready to assist its neighbor.

Israel's ties with Guatemala were significantly upgraded last month when the central American country became the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, two days after the USA inaugurated its own embassy in the city, answering a longstanding Israeli demand for recognition of the city as their capital.