Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted for the second time this year, killing 25 people and leaving dazed residents covered in ash as they searched for loved ones all night.
The volcanic eruption Sunday spewed a river of hot lava and belched thick clouds of smoke nearly six miles into the air, according to the CONRED, the government agency for disaster reduction. Ashen remnants covered villages and roads.
In addition to the fatalities, 20 others were injured, officials said. Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales declared three days of national mourning.
Survivors described the horror and destruction when the volcano erupted.
“Not everyone escaped, I think they were buried,” Consuelo Hernandez said in a video released by CONRED. “We saw the lava was pouring through the corn fields and we ran toward a hill.”
Hernandez told officials from the disaster agency that some of her relatives were buried. Images from the scene showed a firefighter weeping as he left the scene.
More than 3,100 people have been evacuated while search and rescue efforts continue into the night, said Sergio García Cabañas, director of the disaster agency. The explosion will affect 1.7 million people.
Authorities urged residents living near the volcano to evacuate immediately, and warned some in Chimaltenango, Sacatepequez and Escuintla states to watch out for volcanic rocks and ash.
Residents were told to avoid roads close to the volcano and ensure water is not contaminated.
At least 15 people have been hospitalized, including 12 children, some of whom suffered severe burns, the health ministry said.
The eruption officially ended late Sunday, according to the Guatemala’s National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology.
“The eruption … is reaching its end with 14.763 feet of ash and weak-to-moderate explosions and incandescence in its crater,” it said in a statement.
But it warned there could be new eruptions, and residents in the surrounding areas should be on alert for mudslides containing volcanic material. Volcanic ash had spread in a 12-mile radius and winds could carry the cloud even farther, officials said.