Guatemala's Fuego erupts, leaving at least 25 dead and hundreds injured

According to local experts, the eruption was the biggest one Guatemala has seen since 1974

Guatemala's Fuego volcano
Guatemala's Fuego volcano

Twenty-five people have been killed and hundreds injured in the most violent eruption in decades in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s Fuego volcano, about 40km south-west of the capital Guatemala City, erupted for the second time this year, spewing rocks, black smoke and ash into the city.

A river of lava hit the village of El Rodeo, killing people inside houses. The main airport in the capital has closed down.

President Jimmy Morales declared three days of national mourning.

"We think that there could be a state of devastation in at least three areas," he said.

Sergio Cabañas, head of the country's National Disaster Management Agency (Conred), told a local radio station that a lava stream had changed course towards El Rodeo.

A firefighter carries a child during evacuation. (Photo:Reuters)
A firefighter carries a child during evacuation. (Photo:Reuters)

"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."

This eruption is the biggest since 1974, according to local experts.

Cabañas later said the dead included a member of his agency's staff.

"Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried," Survivor Consuelo Hernandez said. "We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields and we ran towards a hill."

Several children are among those confirmed dead.

Residents living near the volcano were urged to evacuate immediately, and some in the states of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla were warned to watch out for volcanic rocks and ash.

A total of about 1.7 million people have been affected by the eruption, officials say.

The eruption officially ended late Sunday, according to the Guatemala's National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology.

"The eruption ... is reaching its end with 14.763 feet of ash and weak to moderate explosions and incandescence in its crater," it said in a statement.

But it warned there could be new eruptions, and residents in the surrounding areas should be on alert to lahars and mudslides containing volcanic material. Volcanic ash had spread in a 12-mile radius around the volcano and winds could carry the cloud even farther, officials said.

Officials have advised people to wear masks as protection against falling ash in four of Guatemala's regions.

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