Guatemala: Pacaya Volcano Causes State of National Calamity

CC BY Teufelgt

CC BY Teufelgt

Regions in Guatemala are  in a “state of calamity” as declared by President Colom after the Pacaya volcano, 25 miles south of Guatemala City, increased its activity.  (All links lead to articles in Spanish unless marked otherwise)

Yesterday the The Pacaya[en] volcano increased its activity after a small earthquake;  the arrival of a tropical storm on top of that generated a dangerous combination of  falling water, ashes  and stones. Today the situation is much more serious as the two small earthquakes, the tropical storm and the erupting volcano take their toll on the population. More than 30 different traffic accidents have been caused by the ash the low visibility and rain, 3 people are missing and one has been reported dead: the body of Anibal Arcila,   a cameraman who was hit on the head by falling debris from the volcano while reporting on the explosion,  was found while netizens tuned into online streaming channels.  Twenty others have been reported as injured, towns are being evacuated.

Discussion of the developing events have taken place in accounts (using hashtag #Pacaya), and even a rock music forum .  Ash falling from the sky is not uncommon in Guatemala, but it's a first for Guatemala City.  The airport was closed until the 31st, due to the rocky muck on the ground and ash in the air, possibly reminding people of the ash cloud generated by Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano which interrupted air travel in Europe last month.

Pacaya Volcano is a popular touristic destination[en] and people walk next to lava flows, roast marshmallows and hike the area. So what does this increased activity look like? Vivo en Guatemala reported:

Actualmente se producen explosiones cada segundo y alcanzan hasta 500 metros de altura sobre el cráter. Las columnas de ceniza llegan hasta 1 mil 500 metros de altura y se dispersan hacia el Oeste y Sur-Oeste sobre las aldeas El Rodeo y El Patrocinio. También se reporta caída de ceniza en Amatitán, San Francisco de Sales, Calderas, Los Pocitos y San Vicente Pacaya.

Currently, explosions are taking place every second and can reach 500 meters above the crater surface. The ash columns are reaching 1500 meters of height and are dispersing towards the West and South West over the villages of El Rodeo and El Patrocinio. Ash precipitation is also reported in Amatitán, San Francisco of Sales, Calderas, Los Pocitos and San Vicente Pacaya.

The Guatemalan Firemen Squad report on their blog that many highly populated suburbs including Amatitlan, Villa Nueva and San Miguel Petapa are severely affected by the sand. Blogger Chitiore provides  pictures of the black sand falling from the sky videos and useful links to keep yourself informed about this developing situation.

Up until yesterday, the ash that fell over the city was something of an amusing event, although not completely uncommon in Guatemala,  as can be seen in the following video where a young man stands outside while dry ash hisses as it hits the roofs and other surfaces.

In this next video a sedate Tessy Caspine shows the ash that falls in her yard and covers everything in a coal black slush.  In some areas of the city it has reached 2 or 3 inches deep and has caused car crashes.

You can follow the unfolding events hrough online streaming video of  this Guatemalan TV news channel. Also through CONRED, the Guatemalan National Disaster Prevention Commission,  as it is constantly updating  their  Facebook page and Twitter account with information, including  a map of the communities affected by the emergency.

Renata Ávila collaborated with content for this post.


  • Paul

    – Fears are growing that the Katla volcano in Iceland could soon erupt after volcanic activity at the site increased by over 200% in recent days… VIDEO: The time for Katla to erupt is coming close… Iceland president warns of second volcano threat… National Geographic (November 19, 2008): “High-energy electrons captured over Antarctica could reveal the presence of a nearby but MYSTERIOUS ASTROPHYSICAL OBJECT that’s bombarding Earth with cosmic rays:

  • Erin

    Actually, this is not the first time Guatemala City is reached and covered by the sand and ashes from the Pacaya Volcano. I don’t remember the exact date, but the one I experienced, occurred in 1999.
    My prayers for the disappeared and my sympathy for the dead journalist’s family.

    • Marta

      Erin, the eruption in ´99 launched only ash. This time it spewed volcanic sand, in some places up to 10cm deep, and with the rain from Agatha it created a huge problem. Thank you for your sympathy. I am a firefighter and we have been having many cases now of people getting hurt trying to clean their houses (they fall off their roofs or their roofs collapse from the weight).

  • […] will be our end, according to the Bible. She also compares Tungurahua's situation with Pacaya's eruption in Guatemala: El poder anuncia su presencia. Las nubes de cenizas volcánicas viajan con rapidez ayudadas por […]

  • […] eruptions. Ash from Pacaya has been coating much of the region near the volcano as well (see video of the ash here). The president of Guatemala has declared a state of emergency due to the […]

  • Tessy Caspine

    Am I “sedate”? Not at all. Well, besides that, we are facing several natural situations in which we need help all around. After the Pacaya eruption, Agatha storm hit Guatemala leaving at least 13 deaths.

  • […] increased activity of the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala is taking place at the same time as Tropical Storm Agatha that has hit Central America, and which […]

  • […] nadat de Pacaya Vulkaan zijn activiteit had vergroot vorige week [en], ontstond de tropische storm Agatha in de buurt van Midden-Amerika [en] en die heeft  met […]

  • […] откако вулканот Пакаја ја зголеми својата активност, тропската бура Агата, која се создаде некаде во […]

  • […] May, Guatemala was severely affected by an increase in the activity of the Pacaya Volcano and the strong rains from tropical storm Agatha. Heavy rainfall also affected Mexico, causing […]

  • […] Guatemala: Pacaya Volcano Causes State of National Calamity Ecuador: Tungurahua Eruption Hits More Ecuadorian Provinces Indonesia: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Volcanic Eruption in 48-Hours. […]

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