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Fuego volcano in Guatemala erupts, forcing evacuations

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 14th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Guatemala's Fuego volcano has erupted, spewing smoke and ash high into the blue skies. Thousands of people fled their homes and businesses as lava oozed down its slopes. The volcano, located southwest of the capital Guatemala City blew up in the early afternoon, belching a cloud of ash above the crater.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Roughly 11,000 people have been evacuated and 8,000 have been awaiting transfer to shelters. CONRED's Director of Emergency Response Sergio Cabanas says that up to 10,000 other people could be moved to safety depending on wind conditions and ash emissions, he added.

Ten shelters, each able to house some 200 people, were opened in the affected villages. Most evacuees were staying with friends or relatives.

Residents within 12 miles of the volcano were being taken from the affected zone in buses and private cars, she said. Ash was falling up to 25 miles from the volcano.

Even in the face of nature's fury, there are a number of people were remaining in their houses, unwilling to evacuate out of fear that their belongings could be stolen.

"For the moment, the strength (of the eruption) has not calmed," Cabanas said.

Two lava flows were heading down the sides of the volcano accompanied by pyroclastic flows of hot rock and ash.

"The greater danger right now is the ash," Cabanas said. Evacuations will be hindered if lava continues to flow. 

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said at a press conference that the eruption could affect people as far away as Guatemala City.

"It is a shame, but this is a fact of life in our country, so we will do the best we can to avoid people being harmed," he said.

The airport remains open but airport officials shut down the air approach route between Guatemala City's La Aurora airport and Tapachula International Airport in Chiapas, Mexico.

"For the moment, we are urging caution because of the changing winds near the volcano, mainly from the east and southeast," civil aviation spokeswoman Oddra Lacs said.

The eruption has darkened skies and prompted the closure of nearby schools and universities.

"It is almost impossible to see the volcano because lots of ash is falling," said Ricardo Castillo, an English teacher at the Del Valle University in Santa Lucia says.

"There are lots of clouds and the sky is very dark. Classes have been canceled and the students are very scared, hearing the volcano and seeing the ash cloud."

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