GUATEMALA CITY : Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has declared a state of emergency after a powerful eruption at the southern Pacaya volcano killed one person and forced the international airport to close.
Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed from the volcano 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, as Colom late Thursday issued the emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began Wednesday night and has since built in intensity.
The La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano's hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge. Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.
Some 1,600 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 2,552 meters (8,372 feet) above sea level in the tropical Central American nation.
The burnt body of Guatemalan television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.
Three children aged seven, nine and 10 are also missing in the area, officials said.
There are 288 volcanoes in Guatemala, eight of which are active.
- AFP /ls