Volcan del Fuego erupted in Escuintla, Guatemala. Yesterday was its sixth eruption of the year and the country's largest since 1999. Thick clouds of ash soared nearly two miles high while lava descended nearly 2,000 down the side of the mountain. The volcano is located six miles southwest of the famous tourist destination and former capital of Guatemala, Antigua.
About 33,000 people evacuated their communities according to most reporting although Prensa Libre reports 5,400 and Siglo XXI 10,600. Some made their way to Santa Lucia, a town close to the volcano, and to Guatemala City.
"A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash," said Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology. He said cinders spewing from the volcano were settling a half-inch thick in some places.
He said extremely hot gases were also rolling down the sides of the volcano, which was almost entirely wreathed in ash and smoke. The emergency agency warned that flights through the area could be affected.
There was a red alert, the highest level, south and southeast of the mountain, where, Chicna said, "it's almost in total darkness."
He said ash was landing as far as 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the volcano.Fortunately, Thursday night rains reduced the ash plumes from the volcano and the immediate danger has subsided. It'll be interesting to see how Guatemalans evaluate Otto Perez Molina and his administration's response to the crisis. These disasters are unfortunately something that every Guatemalan president has to contend with. He was in Costa Rica at the time of the eruption.
A second thing to look for is whether this will push the US to act on Guatemala's request for temporary protected status. Plaza Publica had an article last week in which Perez Molina's wife said that she saw it very unlikely that the US would move on TPS before the end of the year. I thought the same months ago, but with Obama moving on immigration the last few months and the recent eruption in Guatemala, things might have changed a little.