May 28th, 2010
09:19 AM ET

At least three killed after volcano erupts in Guatemala

The death toll from the eruption of a volcano in Guatemala has risen to at least three people, an official said Friday.

Two villagers from El Bejucal and a reporter from CNN affiliate Noti 7 were killed as a result of Thursday's eruption of the Pacaya volcano, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster commission.

The three victims were crushed by rocks strewn by the volcano.

Pacaya, located about 15 miles (25 km) south of Guatemala City, began spewing ash and soot about 7 p.m. (9 p.m. ET) Thursday.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a state of calamity for 15 days and called for calm as the eruption spread ash over the capital, prompting evacuations and shutting down the city's international airport.

Four people were missing as evacuations continued, the president said.

At least 1,800 people have been placed in shelters after four villages near the volcano were evacuated, de Leon said.

The runway at La Aurora International Airport - the third busiest airport in Central America in terms of passenger traffic - was covered with ash and will be closed Friday, Colom said.

About 25 percent of the airport's daily flights had to be diverted to alternative airports after La Aurora was closed around 7:30 p.m., said Monica Monje with Civil Aeronautics.

The states of Guatemala, Escuintla and Sacatepequez were hardest hit. Classes were canceled Friday in Escuintla and Guatemala states, Colom said.

A slight rain that fell over the area mixed with the ash, hindering visibility.

Alejandro Estrada Garcia, a 21-year-old student in Guatemala City, filed a CNN iReport detailing his difficulties.

"I was returning from the university," he said. "It was really hard to drive because the ash was coming down with a bit of rain, so it was kind of muddy and really hard to get off the windshield. I drove with my window open so I could see."

Pacaya had been dormant for a century until 1965, when it erupted again. It has been active since.

Its summit has an elevation of 8,373 feet (2,552 meters). - CNN's Gustavo Valdes and journalists Bertha Ramos-Rodriguez and Alexia Rios Hayashi contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Guatemala
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. damiao

    R.I.P my condolenses.

    May 28, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Sri

      My fenird whose Guatemalan was surprisingly calm about the whole situation, but I found it kind of sad thinking of the disaster... Poor lives loosing important people*sigh*on the side note, THAT IS ONE FRIKKIN LARGE SINK HOLE!!!!!!

      February 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alan

    Volcanic activity seems to be increasing along with earthquakes world-wide.

    The economic impact resulting from the disruption of air travel to and from Europe from the recent Icelandic eruption is just now being fully realized.

    With eruptions on both sides of the Atlantic, will there be a safe corridor for air travel? What about the resultant ash fallout coming from both continents?

    May 29, 2010 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Eric

    Seems the Earth is rebelling to what Man is doing to her. The earth will win in the end, will Man survive?

    May 30, 2010 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Judy

    I climbed Pacaya in July of 2008 with my son who lives in Guatemala. I think of all those little kids who were renting out walking sticks and flashlights to the tourists, and I pray that they are all OK.

    May 30, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tasha Linteau

    We have put the Earth in this position with all that we have done to it. Now we have to deal with the backlash from it.

    June 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. EDUDE

    Backlash?, the earth is rebelling? Its called the 'Ring of Fire. Its been extremely mild the past 10000 years.

    June 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ilusion

    wow! I lived not to far from this volcano not too long ago. I hope everyone in its soroundings are safe and well .

    June 4, 2010 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |