Updated Jun 4, 2018

Fuego volcano erupts in Guatemala, killing at least 62

A man looking at Fuego's volcanic eruption. Photo: Orlando Estrada/AFP via Getty Images

A volcanic eruption from Guatemala's Fuego volcano has killed at least 62 after a late-Sunday eruption sent ash across the region, AP reports.

Threat level: The eruption covered villages in ash and molten rock after an explosion on Sunday afternoon. Lava began flowing rapidly down the mountain and across homes around 4 p.m.

Fuego is Guatemala's most active volcano, per Discover Magazine's volcano expert Eric Klemetti, and has 300 residents living in the surrounding area. Most of the people have been evacuated, but rescuers are struggling to reach residents in rural areas separated by the debris from the eruption.

Unlike Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, which mostly produces slow-moving lava flows, Fuego is a different type of volcano, known as a stratovolcano. It has already generated multiple pyroclastic and ash flows.

People flee El Rodeo village, 35 km south of Guatemala City, after the eruption of the Fuego Volcano on June 3, 2018. PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Referring to the social media videos of the eruption, Klemetti said, "If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, DO NOT stick around to film it. Run/drive/ride away as fast as possible."

  • A pyroclastic flow is a fast-moving mixture of ash, volcanic rock, hot gases and air moving down the sides of the volcano. They can reach over 500 degrees Celsius and wipe out anything in their path, from entire forests to buildings. It was a pyroclastic flow that did so much damage in 1980, when Mt. St. Helens erupted in Washington State.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, pyroclastic flows are impossible to outrun, and contain a variety of deadly hazards." With rock fragments ranging in size from ash to boulders that travel across the ground at speeds typically greater than 80 km per hour (50 mph), pyroclastic flows knock down, shatter, bury or carry away nearly all objects and structures in their path," the USGS says on a website detailing the phenomena.

According to the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Project, Fuego has been erupting continuously since 2002, though not always so explosively and destructively.

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