Guatemala‘s Volcano of Fire has erupted, spewing lava almost 2,000 feet down its slopes as ash billowed into the air on Thursday.
The country’s head of emergency evacuations has announced that more than 33,000 people are evacuating the area following the eruption, reports USA Today.
Sergio Cabanas, the head of emergency evacuations, has said that the evacuees are leaving about 17 villages around the Volcano of Fire, which is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from Antigua, a colonial city.
The volcano, which is no stranger to eruptions, and has been active for a long time, is just outside one of Guatemala’s most popular tourist attractions.
Seismologists added that, along with lava and ash, a series of explosions have been emanating from the 12,346-foot-high volcano. CBS News notes that the Volcano of Fire (also known as the Volcan de Fuego), is one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. Its last known eruption was just last year.
The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Cabanas added that the eruption is expected to last for about 12 more hours, but that Antigua is not in danger from the eruption. Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, stated that, “A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash.”
Chicna added that there was a red alert south and southeast of the Guatemalan volcano, while there was a general alert (the second highest level) in other areas around the eruption.