Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport was closed on Tuesday as a precautionary measure against the strong expulsion of ash from the Pacaya volcano, following a recommendation from the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH).
The volcano, located 43 km southwest of the capital Guatemala City, reported intense eruptive activity, with magma pulses creating thick plumes of ash rising between 3,500 and 4,000 meters above sea level.
Images of the Guatemalan capital showed the ash emanation, as well as thick layers of accumulated ash on streets, vehicles and homes.
The government released videos from the La Aurora International Airport, which is the main point of entry and exit into the Central American country, showing huge amounts of ash on the runways, making it dangerous to operate and leading to its closure on Tuesday.
Director of Guatemala’s Civil Aeronautics Francis Argueta confirmed on social media that the airport closure followed a change in wind direction that spread the ash from south to north, and posted photos of aircraft covered in ash.
Pacaya volcano has maintained strong eruptive activity for several weeks, with pulses of rising magma that have generated explosions of thick ash plumes, which in turn have affected populations up to 50 km to the north and west, according to INSIVUMEH spokesperson Emilio Barillas.
“Due to Pacaya’s pattern in recent weeks, it will likely maintain high levels of activity, with rising pulses continuing in the coming hours generating explosions, ballistic fallout and ash,” Barillas said.
The general population has been urged to wear masks and protective eyewear if they have to leave their homes.