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Dozens Die As Guatemala Volcano Erupts

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Guatemala’s most violent volcano eruption in more than a century has killed at least 25 people.

The Fuego volcano, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, spewed rock, gas and ash into the sky on Sunday.

Fast-moving flows hit villages, killing people inside their homes. Hundreds were injured and many are missing. The country’s main airport is closed.

President Jimmy Morales has declared three days of national mourning.

In a statement issued late on Sunday, he spoke of the nation’s “deep pain” caused by the “irreparable losses” in human lives.

How exceptional was the eruption?

Fuego is one of Latin America’s most active volcanoes. A major eruption devastated nearby farms in 1974, but no deaths were recorded.

Another eruption in February this year sent ash 1.7km (1.1 mile) into the sky.

Sunday’s event was on a much greater scale. Ash reached up to more than 6km.

A mix of red-hot rock and gas, known as pyroclastic flow, rushed down the mountainside and engulfed villages. Unlike slow-moving lava, which people can walk away from, pyroclastic flow can reach extremely high speed.

This is Guatemala’s deadliest such event since 1902, when an eruption of the Santa Maria volcano killed thousands of people.

What has the response been?

Hundreds of police officers, soldiers and emergency workers have been sent to affected areas on the slopes of the volcano. They found charred bodies resting on steaming remnants of pyroclastic flow.

Survivors covered in ash were carried away.

Sergio Cabañas, head of the country’s National Disaster Management Agency (Conred), said the town of El Rodeo had been “buried”.

Other towns affected include Alotenango and San Miguel los Lotes. Rescuers are still trying to reach a number of villages and the death toll is expected to rise.

Temporary shelters have been set up for about 3,000 residents who have been evacuated.

Source: BBC

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