Guatemala’s Fuego volcano kills at least 25 in explosive eruption

Fuego volcano near Guatemala City buried villages and shot ash and rocks into the air, affecting 1.7 million people

25 people have been killed and hundreds more injured as Guatemala’s Fuego volcano shot ash kilometres into the air in the most explosive eruption the country has seen for decades.

One lava flow buried the nearby village of El Rodeo, killing people in their houses.

Several children have been confirmed dead.

Guatemala’s main airport, La Aurora International, has been closed. The runway was shut because of the presence of volcanic ash and to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala’s civil aviation authority said on Twitter.

Guatemala City is about 40 km (25 miles) north-east of the volcano.

Fuego sent an 8 km (5 mile) stream of lava pouring down its slopes, while the ash and rock fired into the air formed a pyroclastic flow that roared over the nearby towns.

Victims have also been found in the towns of Alotenango and San Miguel los Lotes.

Jimmy Morales, Guatemala’s president, has announced 3 days of national mourning.

Sergio Cabañas, head of the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (Conred), said that a lava flow had changed course towards El Rodeo.

“Unfortunately El Rodeo was buried and we haven’t been able to reach the La Libertad village because of the lava and maybe there are people that died there too,” Cabañas told a local radio station.

One of Conred’s staff is among the dead.

Antigua, a colonial city popular with tourists and just kilometres away, was pelted with rocks and covered in ash.

The Feugo eruption appears to be the largest since 1974, according to local experts. 3,100 people have been evacuated from the area.

“Temperatures in the pyroclastic flow can exceed 700 degrees Celsius and volcanic ash can rain down on a 15 km (9 mile) radius. That could cause more mud flows and nearby rivers to burst their banks,” Eddy Sanchez, director of Guatemala’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute, told Reuters.

It is Fuego’s second eruption this year. Officials expect it to continue to be active.