Guatemalan Volcano Eruption Terrifies Villagers While Drawing Tourists

A volcano right outside Guatemala‘s tourist attractions has exploded into a series of powerful eruptions. The natural occurrence was so intense, more than 33,000 people from surrounding communities were forced to evacuate.

“It thundered and then it got dark as the ash began falling,” Miriam Curumaco, a 28-year-old homemaker from the village of Morelia who had evacuated along with 16 family members, told “It sounded like a pressure cooker that wouldn’t stop.”

While the popular travel destination of Antigua has not yet been affected, 17 villages around Volcan de Fuego, a 12,346-foot volcano, have had to vacate. According to Guatemala’s head of emergency, Sergio Cabanas, the volcano spewed lava nearly 1,969 feet down slopes with thick ash, gas and smoke. Additionally, cinders shooting out of the volcano were measuring a half-inch thick in many places.

As worried locals leave their homes and seek refuge, the eruption has become a huge draw for tourists who want to get close to the volcano and take photos.

“Now that we know it erupted, we’re going to try to stop on the way and maybe take some pictures,” said Nilton Dasilva, a church group leader from Northfield, Illinois.

Most of the area has received an orange alert, the second highest level, although in the south and southeast of the mountain they are in almost complete darkness and have received a red alert. Many people in these areas have been affected with respiratory and vision problems. Luckily, the Guatemalan Red Cross has set up 10 shelters in the area where people can receive hygiene kits and water.

[Image via luisfi]