When Washington State’s Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in May 1980, it killed 57 people.
Some 38 years later, a similar pyroclastic explosion from Guatemala’s Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of fire) has killed at least 62 people, and injured hundreds more, with the death toll expected to rise after the eruption send a giant mud and ash slides down the mountain late Sunday (local time).
Here’s the incredible moment it all began.
— Fijate Bien (@FijateBienGT) June 3, 2018
It was the second major eruption this year and at the start of the day, officials from CONRED Guatemala, the national disaster reduction authority, did not seem too worried as Volcan de Fuego came back to life.
La Unidad de Prevención de Volcanes de la Secretaría Ejecutiva de la CONRED mantiene constante monitoreo a la actividad del #VolcánDeFuego en estos momentos la columna de ceniza se dispersa en dirección Suroeste, se escuchan explosiones continuas algunas fuertes y esporádicas. pic.twitter.com/2kBa1elm92
— CONRED (@ConredGuatemala) June 3, 2018
El volcán de Fuego inició su segunda erupción del presente año, con explosiones que elevan columnas de ceniza a 6 mil metros sobre el nivel del mar, flujos piroclásticos en barrancas. Por el momento no es necesario realizar evacuaciones.
Video: Armando Pineda, Espeleólogo. pic.twitter.com/rKQBeDyOgN
— CONRED (@ConredGuatemala) June 3, 2018
But after the ash column reached 10km into the sky there was a series of pyroclastic flows – an explosive mix of hot gas and volcanic material travelling at up to 700 km/h (430 mph) and as hot as 1,000°C (1,830°F) and it all changed for the more than one million people in the area.
By noon, local time, the heavy ash began to blanket villages surrounding the mountain. Around 4pm the accompanying lahars (volcanic mudslides) began charging down the mountain valleys, wiping away all in its path, including some villages.
Some photos posted on social media show the bodies of victims half-buried in the mud.
More than 3,100 people were evacuated in an exclusion zone 8km around the blast site.
The death toll was increased from 25 on Monday (local time) as the search for survivors continued. The village of El Rodeo is the site of the latest deaths and further a eruption overnight halted the search as rescuers fled for their lives.
A 5.2 magnitude earthquake also struck 100km off the coast of Guatemala at around 1am (AEST).
Many of those who stayed for a sticky beak during the volcano’s initial explosions had a close shave when one lahar charged their way down a ravine and then covered the road at the village of San Miguel Los Lotes, where they’d been filming seconds earlier.
— Néstor Trigueros (@NestorTrigueros) June 4, 2018
Here’s more footage the terrifying moment it hits San Miguel Los Lotes, where several people have died.
Local newspaper Pensa Libre returned to the village, where there was believed to be around 100 homes, after the lahar hit and authorities and the army began the search for survivors and victims before darkness suspended their efforts at around 9pm on Sunday (local time).
A number of areas around the mountain have been isolated by the explosions and mudslides. CONRED estimates around 650 people remain unaccounted for.
Israel is one of the first nations to respond with a pledge to send emergency aid.
Israel is sending an immediate emergency aid to #Guatemala, including medicine & food, following the lethal Fuego volcanic eruption.
Guatemala, Israel stands with you! ???????????????? https://t.co/WC76q8mO7t
— Israel Foreign Min. (@IsraelMFA) June 4, 2018
Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, visited Israel a fortnight ago, and after today’s disaster declared three days of national mourning.
Here’s more dramatic footage of the explosions:
— ENRIQUE LODOZA (@Lodoza) June 4, 2018
Meanwhile, the lower east rift zone Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano continues its destructive path through the residential area of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.
While most of the fissures that opened up last month are now inactive, fissure 8 is busy, pushing lava fountains 67 metres (220 feet) into the sky on Sunday as the lava flow continues in a channel towards the Kapoho residential area.
By Sunday night the 800-metre-wide (0.5 mile) front was just 220m (245 yards) from the ocean in Kapoho Bay, with several properties standing in its way. Some parts of the flow are estimated to be advancing at an average of 76 metres/hour (250ft/hr).
Here are the latest images courtesy of the US Geological Survey:
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