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Thread: Thousands flee Ecuador, Guatemala volcanos

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    Thousands flee Ecuador, Guatemala volcanos
    By Edgar Calderon (AFP) – 10 hours ago

    A woman, sitting inside a vehicle covered by ash from The Pacaya volcano, holds up an umbrella in Boca Del Monte, south of Guatemala City, Thursday May 27, 2010. Authorities closed Guatemala's international airport after the nearby Pacaya volcano showered as much as three inches of ash over parts of the city. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    GUATEMALA CITYThousands of people were evacuated and airports were closed as two volcanos erupted in Guatemala and Ecuador Friday, choking major cities with ash, and leaving two dead, officials said.

    Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a 15-day state of emergency around the Pacaya volcano, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital.

    The volcano erupted again Friday after first bursting back to life Wednesday, killing two people, including a television reporter covering the event.

    In Ecuador, the Tungurahua volcano exploded into action Friday, forcing the evacuation of at least seven villages and closing down the airport and public schools in Guayaquil, the country's largest and most populated city.

    As the 2,552 meters (8,372 feet) Pacaya volcano exploded anew on Friday, with billowing clouds of ash and dust, Colom said La Aurora International Airport, in Guatemala City, would remain closed until Saturday "because we've got to clean the runways and surrounding areas" of ash.

    The airport closures were reminiscent of the massive blanket of ash Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano spewed out last month causing the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, affecting more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.

    President Colom said the eruptions of Pacaya since Wednesday had killed two people, injured 59, left three children missing and destroyed 100 homes.

    The Emergency Management Coordinator said between 1,700-1,900 people have been evacuated from their homes to nearby shelters in three departments affected by the emergency decree.

    The Education Ministry also suspended classes in the emergency area.

    On Friday, the volcano was rocked by constant explosions and spewed bright-colored plumes into the air.

    Guatemala City was covered in a blanket of ash and dust, as people evacuated from the danger zone wandered the streets darkened by the ash cloud and the city's two million inhabitants tried to cope with the catastrophe.

    The head of the national seismological institute warned more eruptions could take place "in the coming days" at the most active volcano in Central America.

    The Pacaya volcano has been active for 49 years and has experienced six large eruptions.

    The head of the national seismological institute Eddy Sanchez said the volcano had accumulated a lot of energy over several years. "Like a pressure cooker, it will release the pressure violently," he told reporters.

    He warned that lava would continue to spew out at high altitudes.

    The charred body of television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the victim could not escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out when the volcano exploded late Thursday.

    "We decided to stay a few minutes longer taking more photographs. Suddenly, we heard rumblings and rocks began falling all around so we had to get out running," a driver for one of the reporters covering the scene with Archila told the Nuestro Diario newspaper.

    The second eruption-related fatality was that of a 22-year-old man who fell to his death as he cleaned volcano ash from the roof of a school.

    Colom vowed government action to clean up the gray mess.

    "The people must feel confident that the state is responding," the president said as he announced he would travel to the most affected municipalities to work with emergency committees.

    Within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the volcano, locals armed with brooms and shovels scrambled to remove sand and ash from the roofs and courtyards of their homes.

    "We've only cleaned the backyard so far and we've already filled a large garbage bag," Isabel Estevez told AFP. She and her husband began cleaning the sediment dumped by the volcano, up to five centimeters (two inches) thick in some places.

    In Ecuador, meanwhile, the Tungurahua volcano experienced one of its biggest eruptions Friday, spewing columns of ash and rock prompting evacuations of at least seven surrounding villages.

    "Certain measures have been taken, including the closure of Guayaquil airport until further notice and the suspension of classes in Guayas province, as we make a new assessment" of the situation, said Yuri De Janon, regional coordinator of risk management.

    He said the ash fallout from the volcano was affecting Guayaquil and four other towns in Guayas.

    Hugo Yepes, director of Ecuador's Geophysical Institute, noted that the volcano was at one point spewing molten rocks and large clouds of ash and gas 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) into the sky. But he said the volcanic activity had since decreased.

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    Big volcanic eruptions in Guatemala, Ecuador

    An American Airlines jet sits on the tarmac covered with ash from the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano at the international airport in Guatemala City on Friday.

    Jose Luis Pos / AP

    Associated Press Writer
    updated 8:13 p.m. ET May 28, 2010

    GUATEMALA CITY - Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanos in Central and South America on Friday, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over major cities.

    Guatemala's Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks Thursday afternoon, blanketing the country's capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. A television reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City.

    In the village of Calderas, close to the eruption, Brenda Castaneda said she and her family hid under beds and tables as marble-sized rocks thundered down on her home.

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    GUATEMALA CITY Rocks spewing from a volcano overlooking the Guatemalan capital killed a television reporter, authorities said Friday. Three children are missing.

    The Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing Guatemala City with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. President Alvaro Colom declared a "state of calamity."

    Television reporter Anibal Archila was hit by a shower of rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Guatemala City, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster committee.

    He said three children between the ages of seven and 12 were missing.

    At least 1,600 people from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters.

    Two to three inches (Five to 7.5 centimeters) of ash accumulated on streets in some southern parts of the city, and officials imposed limits on trucks and motorcycles to help speed up traffic slowed by the ash.

    A woman cries as she makes a call with her phone after the Pacaya volcano erupted in the town of Calderas, Guatemala, Friday May 28, 2010. The Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing Guatemala City with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. One television reporter has been killed and thousands of residents from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

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    Guatemalan volcano blast kills one, shuts airport
    Sarah Grainger
    Fri May 28, 2010 6:58pm EDT

    Residents sweep ash off the streets in Guatemala City May 28, 2010.

    Credit: Reuters/Doriam Morales

    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala's Pacaya volcano belched columns of black ash on Friday, a day after a powerful eruption killed at least one person, forced hundreds of families to evacuate and shut the international airport.

    The volcano, 25 miles south of Guatemala City, erupted on Thursday, raining thick ash and small rocks on the capital, coating the streets in a layer of gritty black sand. Store owners and residents hosed down their driveways and shoveled heaps of ash and rubble off rooftops and sidewalks.

    A television journalist reporting from the slopes of the volcano died from head wounds on Thursday when he was hit by falling lava rocks, police spokesman Donald Gonzalez told reporters.

    President Alvaro Colom told a news conference late on Thursday that three children aged 7, 9 and 10 were missing after the eruption. Guatemala's Prensa Libre daily reported three dead, including the journalist, but police could not confirm the report.

    All flights out of Guatemala City were canceled due to the volcanic sand on the runways.

    "We'll need a minimum of two more days but we've also received news from the meteorologists .... that the volcano erupted again and the ash hasn't arrived here yet," acting director of civil aviation Felipe Castaneda told Reuters.

    "We're worried about two situations: the ash on the runway and the particles in the air."

    In villages near Pacaya -- which is normally in a state of low-level eruption and often emits a slow-moving stream of lava that attracts tourists -- nearly 2,000 people were evacuated on Thursday evening and Friday morning. About 600 people spent the night on foam mattresses in municipal buildings and a church.

    Pacaya's eruptions usually last about six hours, but volcanologists said the one on Thursday was its strongest blast in more than a decade and activity could continue over the next few days. They measured plumes of ash reaching almost 5,000 feet above the volcano's peak.

    "We've never seen anything like this. ... You could hear the explosions of the volcano, and stones that were still on fire were falling, big stones, and many people were scared," said Nestor Sican, who lives in Amatitlan, a town close to the volcano.


    Pacaya, which is close to the colonial town of Antigua and farms where some of Guatemala's highest-quality coffee is grown, has been continuously active since the 1960s but had not showered rocks and ash since 1998.

    Anacafe, Guatemala's coffee producers' association, said it was gathering information from growers around the volcano to assess whether there had been any damage to crops.

    Felipe Guzman, a coffee farmer and Anacafe board member said the rainy weather could help clean ash-covered coffee trees.

    "It has been raining because of a tropical depression off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, which has helped wipe away the sand from the leaves, but it hasn't cleaned everything," Guzman said. "I hope it keeps raining."

    Colom declared a state of emergency for the area around the volcano and civil aviation authorities closed Guatemala City's La Aurora international airport as a thick layer of sand covering the runways made takeoffs and landings hazardous.

    Airport staff worked to clear runways and officials would decide later on Friday if the airport can be reopened, said Monica Monje of Guatemala's aviation authority.

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