Guatemala volcano eruption subsides after forcing airport to close

Guatemala’s volcano Fuego, which means fire in Spanish, went into activity overnight from Saturday to Sunday, December 11, 2022, seeping molten rock and spewing ash from its slopes.

One of the most active volcanoes in Central America erupted over the weekend, spewing lava and ash, forcing Guatemalan authorities to briefly close the country’s largest airport before activity waned on Sunday.

The volcano, named Fuego, which means fire in Spanish, was active from Saturday to Sunday, spewing molten rock seeping down its slopes and spewing ash two kilometers (more than a mile) into the sky. Winds carried the ash towards Guatemala City, 35 kilometers (22 miles) away.

In a statement made by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, it was reported that La Aurora International Airport, 6 kilometers south of the capital, was temporarily closed in the morning.

Aviation sources said at least two inbound flights needed to be diverted before they reopened at noon local time after winds changed direction and removed the ash from the facility.

Road police spokesman Carlos Aquino also said that a road connecting southern and central Guatemala was closed as a precaution. It reopened on Sunday afternoon as the volcano’s activity subsided.

The volcano is about 16 kilometers from Antigua, the country’s picturesque old capital and largest tourist attraction.

Fuego erupts on average every four to five years. In 2018, an eruption devastated the village of San Miguel Los Lotes as rivers of lava flowed down its sides, killing 215 people and leaving a similar number missing.

Authorities said they were watching the latest explosion closely, but no one was evacuated.

Guatemala volcano eruption subsides after forcing airport to close

Many local families near Guatemala’s volcanoes have a backpack ready to evacuate with food, water, flashlights, and medicine.

“With what happened in 2018, the authorities are now more vigilant and more active,” said Jose Sul, a resident of Alotenango, located at Fuego’s eastern base.

Locals saw a sudden eruption of lava that fried the sky on Saturday night. “People here are used to experiencing it and see it as normal,” Demetrio Pamal, a 28-year-old Mayan farmer, told AFP.

Many local families have a backpack with food, water, flashlight, and medicine inside so they can evacuate for up to three days at the drop of a hat.

On Sunday afternoon, the Guatemalan institute of volcanology said “activity has decreased; there are no longer pyroclastic flows or lava emissions or ash-laden eruption columns.”

“After a few hours of relative calm, this eruptive activity could be considered over,” said Roberto Merida, a technician at the volcanology institute.

Guatemala has two other active volcanoes: Santiaguito in the west of the country and Pacaya in the south.

Fuego is also adjacent to the inactive Acatenango volcano at 3,500 meters.

Unlike the Andean volcanoes in South America, the top of Guatemala is not covered with snow due to Central America’s warmer climate.

There are more than 100 volcanoes in Central America, and many of them are extremely popular tourist attractions, although they occasionally cause death and destruction.

© 2022 AFP

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