Guatemala volcano erupts, killing children as lava spews into village

Firefighters pray after Fuego volcano erupted violently in San Juan Alotenango Guatemala Jun 3 2018. Reuters

Firefighters pray after Fuego volcano erupted violently in San Juan Alotenango Guatemala Jun 3 2018. Reuters

The Volcan de Fuego, or "volcano of fire", exploded before noon Sunday.

The year 2018 has already seen the eruption of the Cleveland volcano in the Aleutian Isles, Mount Mayon in the Philippines and most recently Kilauea in Hawaii.

Local search and rescue efforts were suspended on Sunday due to low light and risky conditions.

Another victim was found in the streets of El Rodeo by volunteer firefighters and later died in an ambulance. "Where we saw the lava fall, we ran to a hillside" to escape, she added.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated from the surrounding area and Guatemala City's airport has been closed, authorities said.

President Jimmy Morales said he is considering declaring a state of emergency, as "there could be a state of devastation in at least three areas".

National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) chief Sergio Cabanas did not rule out the number of dead increasing, as there are "missing persons, but we do not know how many".

Speaking to local radio, government volcano expert Gustavo Chigna said: "The landscape on the volcano is totally changed, everything is totally destroyed".

An estimated 25 people, including at least three children, were killed and almost 300 injured on Sunday, officials said.

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Dramatic footage showed a group of people fleeing pyroclastic flow - a fast-moving mixture of hot ash, lava and gas - as it tore down a bridge.

Eddy Sanchez, director of the country's seismology and volcanology institute, said the flows reached temperatures of about 700 C.

Dozens of people are missing with over 2,000 more having been evacuated from the affected areas, the Noticias 4Vision broadcaster reported.

At least 15 people have been hospitalized, including 12 children, some of whom suffered severe burns, the health ministry said.

"All the people could not leave, I say they were buried", local resident Consuelo Hernández said.

The volcano's peak soars 3,763 meters above sea level. These incredibly powerful flows of hot lava blocks, ash, volcanic gas and debris are capable of flipping cars and destroying buildings while moving at speeds of 50 miles per hour or higher, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fuego is located about 44 kilometers southwest of the capital, Guatemala City, and is close to the city of Antigua, which is a popular tourist destination.

The Fuego volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed bodies strewn atop the lava flow, which was around 5 miles long at one point. Lahar is described as flow of pyroclastic material and slurry.

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