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GUATEMALA CITY – One of Central America's most active volcanoes erupted in fiery explosions of ash and molten rock on Sunday, killing at least seven people and injuring 20 others. Towering plume of smoke covered nearby villages in heavy ash. An indefinite number of people were missing and the authorities feared that the toll could rise.
Shortly before noon (2 pm ET) the volcano Fuego volcano exploded in Guatemala, Spanish for "fire volcano". Hours later, around 4 pm, lava began to flow down the side of the mountain.
Eddy Sanchez, director of the Seismology and Volcanology Institute of the country, said the rivers reached temperatures of about 1
Video images of Sacatepezuez Television showed a charred landscape in which a lava flow came into contact with houses.
Three bodies lay partially buried in ash-colored rubble from the Volcan de Fuego, Spanish for "fire volcano", about 27 miles from Guatemala City.
Other videos from local media showed residents barefoot and covered with muddy debris.
"Not everyone could get out, I think they were buried," Consuelo Hernandez, a resident of the village of El Rodeo, told the newspaper Diario de Centroamerica. "Where we dropped the lava, we ran to a hill," she added.
Hundreds of rescue workers, including firefighters, police and soldiers, were working to get bodies out of the lava.
National Disaster Coordinator Sergio Cabanas said that seven people died dead and that an unknown number is missing.
Among the deaths were four people, including a disaster relief official, who were killed when lava in the village of El Rodeo set fire to a house, Cabanas said:
Two children were burned when they lost the volcanic eruption this year watching from a bridge, he added.
Volunteer firefighters found another victim in the streets of El Rodeo; This person died in an ambulance.
Guatemala's Civil Protection Department said that 3,100 people were evacuated nearby and that the outbreak affected an area of about 1.7 million people.
Accommodations have been opened. Ash fell on the territory of Guatemala City as well as the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla, which are located around the volcano in south central Guatemala.
Streets and houses were covered in the colonial city of Antigua, a popular area, tourist destination. The aviation authorities have shut down the capital's international airport due to the danger of aircraft passing through the ashes.
The conical volcano Fuego reaches a height of 12,346 feet above sea level at its peak.