At least 25 people have been reported killed and 300 injured after a volcano erupted in Guatemala, spewing ash and lava over the surrounding area, the disaster management agency has said.
It was feared the death toll could climb even higher because there were communities that could not be accessed by Sunday evening, Sergio Garcia Cabanas, Conred agency’s head, said.
The dead included a Conred employee and at least three children, officials said.
The army said it had evacuated 3,100 people from around the volcano, 70km south-west of Guatemala City, and posted pictures of soldiers carrying children covered in ashes from houses.
President Jimmy Morales visited Conred headquarters on Sunday evening and later following a cabinet meeting declared a state of emergency in the departments (the states) of Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla.
The ash spread throughout the country’s four administrative regions affecting 1.7 million people and closing the capital’s La Aurora International Airport.
‘Volcano of fire’
The eruption of the 3,763-metre Volcan de Fuego – meaning “volcano of fire” in Spanish – was the most powerful in recent years, according to the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (Insivumeh).
Pictures on social media showed residents fleeing from lava and local roads, buildings and trees covered in a layer of ash, while the smoke clouds reached six kilometres above sea level.
Twenty people had to be treated in hospital for burns including at least six children, the health ministry said.
Historical records have documented the volcano’s eruptions back to 1531.