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Update: Volcanic ash heads to Pacific, spares Yucatán airports

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Firefighters on Sunday leave the evacuation area near Volcan de Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, in El Rodeo, Guatemala. Photo: AP

Update, Tuesday, June 5: 

Officials have called off warnings about the potential of Guatemala’s deadly volcano to disrupt air travel in Yucatán.

Ash clouds from Volcan de Fuego’s violent eruption are drifting toward the Pacific Ocean, said the National Center for Disaster Prevention (Cenapred).

“Due to the distance and direction of the wind, ash or waste from the eruption will not be transported to the state,” said Adrián Martínez Ortega, Quintana Roo’s coordinator of Civil Protection. The news equally affects Yucatán and Campeche.

The public was advised to ignore rumors and keep informed by official sources.

Monday, June 4:

Mérida, Yucatán — Ash from Sunday’s volcanic eruption in Guatemala could strand air travelers in Yucatán. The delay could last days.

The volcano, over 1,000 kilometers south of Mérida, could create clouds of ash that present a danger to aircraft, grounding all planes in the region, officials warn.

Volcanic ash clouds are a serious safety threat because they contain pulverized rocks, gases such as sulfur dioxide, water vapor, chlorine and traces of other elements that are harmful to aircraft turbines.

Travelers flying to or from the Yucatán Peninsula in the next few days were told to watch for advisories regarding flights from the Merida, Campeche, Carmen and Cancun airports.

A volcanic cloud can leave an entire region without flying for days or even weeks, depending on the intensity and direction of the wind in the areas near the eruption.

Worst disaster in years

At least 25 people were killed and 20 more injured by eruption at the Volcan de Fuego, which lies about 44 kilometers/27 miles southwest of Guatemala City.

Fuego is one of Central America’s most active volcanos. This is its second eruption this year, and is much larger than February’s.

A major eruption there devastated nearby farms in 1974, but no fatalities were reported.

On Sunday, hot rock mixed with gas rushed down the mountainside and engulfed villages while spewing ash nearly four miles into the sky, Cars and houses in the nearby villages of San Pedro Yepocapa and Sangre de Cristo were blanketed with soot. Lesser amounts of ash fell on Guatemala City.

This is Guatemala’s deadliest such event since 1902, when an eruption of the Santa Maria volcano killed thousands of people.

With information from Telesur, Associated Press, BBC

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