Guatemala's disaster management agency says at least 25 people are dead after a volcano erupted Sunday near Guatemala City, spewing molten lava, and covering nearby villages in thick smoke and ash.
Richard Fitz-Hugh, a backpacker from Beaconsfield, Bucks, had climbed a neighbouring peak to watch the active Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) in Guatemala, just hours before it erupted. "There are injured, burned and dead people", National Disaster Coordinator Sergio Cabanas said on the radio.
"Currently the volcano continues to erupt and there exists a high potential for [pyroclastic] avalanches of debris, " the disaster agency said late Sunday via Twitter, quoting Sanchez, the director of the seismology and volcanology institute. "This is an bad place to be, if you are ever around an erupting volcano like this and you see a cloud moving along the ground towards you, RUN".
According to estimates from rescue agencies, around 300 people are believed to have been injured.
Hundreds of rescue workers, including firefighters, police and soldiers worked to recover bodies from still-smoking lava.
At least 18 bodies were discovered in San Miguel Los Lotes, a disaster official told AP. Lesser amounts of ash reached the capital of Guatemala City some 25 miles away, forcing the closure of the La Aurora International Airport.
People flee El Rodeo village, Escuintla department, 20 miles south of Guatemala City, after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano on Sunday.
Dozens of people are missing with over 2,000 more having been evacuated from the affected areas, the Noticias 4Vision broadcaster reported.
Volcan de Fuego, situated on the borders of Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepéquez, sent out an 8km stream of lava, with smoke and ash surrounding the area. Four people died as their house was set on fire and two children died watching the eruption from a nearby bridge.
The Spanish colonial-era city is Guatemala's top tourist attraction.
The runway was closed due to the presence of volcanic ash and in order to guarantee passenger and aircraft safety, Guatemala's civil aviation authority said in a Tweet.