A volcano in southern Guatemala erupted violently this week in what is said to be its biggest eruption since 1999. On Thursday morning (September 13th), the Volcán del Fuego, which sits 31 miles south-west of the capital Guatemala City, began propelling huge clouds of ash over 3 kilometers (2 miles) high. It also spewed rivers of hot lava and gases for over 600 meters (2000 feet). Ash clouds were said to have spread for 80 kilometers (50 miles) south and south-east of the volcano, leaving the area in almost total darkness and forcing the evacuation of several nearby villages. Around 33,000 people were ordered to evacuate, though some chose to stay in their homes. By late Thursday, the eruptions were said to be dying down, and officials were hoping that evacuees would soon be able to return to their communities. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, but several people have had to be treated for respiratory and eye problems.
Volcan de Fuego erupts (Volcán de Fuego haciendo erupción, septiembre 13, 2012 by Rudy A. Girón
This is by no means the first time the 3,763 meter (12,346 foot) volcano (whose name translates as Volcano of Fire) has erupted. It is in an almost constant active state, usually emitting smoke on a daily basis, and has already erupted five times this year, though this month’s eruption is said to be the largest in over a decade. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America.
Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which sits in the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados in the Zona Cafetera (or “Coffee zone”), 130 kilometers (80 mi) west of Bogota, erupted last Saturday, 30 June, after months of volcanic activity. The brief eruption took place at 5.37 p.m. local time, when the volcano expelled a 9.5 kilometer (6 mi) cloud of smoke, ash and gases, resulting in the evacuation of thousands of locals in the surrounding area and the suspension of commercial flights from the nearby towns of Armenia, Manizales and Pereira.
Nevado del Ruiz ("Nevado del Ruiz nos saludo 2" by Dr EG)
Fortunately, there have been no reports of injuries or damage to property, but authorities have warned that a further eruption is probable. Though the volcanic activity alert has now been lowered to orange after it was declared red following the eruption, scientists at the Vulcan and and Seismological Observatory in nearby Manizales say that the volcano continues to emit gases and ash, and that “new eruptions cannot be ruled out”. The recent activity is a nasty reminder of the deadly power of the 5321 meter (17,457 ft) volcano: on November 13 1985, a massive avalanche of mud and debris, caused by a small eruption, destroyed the town of Armero, killing an estimated 25,000 people. Avoid the area where possible, and keep up-to-date with travel and safety alerts: the website of the Manizales Vulcan and Seismological Observatory has daily updates (Spanish only), or check the Colombia travel advice page of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.