More than 33,000 people were ordered to evacuate 17 villages near Antigua, Guatemala, today as Volcan de Fuego, or “Volcano of Fire,” an active volcano in the area, erupted, the Associated Press reported. Residents of Antigua, a colonial city that’s a popular tourist attraction, were not ordered to leave.
A series of explosions from the 12,346-foot-high volcano threw ash 3,000 feet into the air and sent lava flowing 2,000 feet down the volcano’s slopes, the AP reported.
"A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash," Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, told the AP.
The south and southeast sides of the mountain were in “almost total darkness," Chicna added.
Ash spread up to seven miles to the west and northwest of the volcano, Agence France-Presse reported. The smoke columns were so tall, they could be seen from the capital, 46 miles away.
It’s the sixth time the volcano has erupted this year and its biggest eruption since 1999, according to NBC News.
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