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.


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