Today’s eruption appears to be more serious than the May/2012 eruption and fears are that the eruption is growing, so Guatemalan officials have begun evacuating people living on the western slope of the volcano as a precaution.
Antigua Guatemala’s volcanic neighbors include Agua and Acatenango (both dormant) and Fuego which is famous for being almost constantly active at a low level. Fuego’s May eruption was an extraordinary event in which Fuego violently spewed lava, rock and ash – just as it is doing right now as I write this!
Only time will tell how serious this eruption will be, but perhaps Fuego’s past eruptions will give us a clue. Following are a few things – both interesting and disturbing – that I discovered about our volcanic neighbor:
Fuego has had more than 60 eruptions since 1524 with 25% of these eruptions involving significant lava flows.
Fuego’s October 1974 eruption was one of the largest in memory. With this event there was a series of powerful blasts that produced up to 10km high ash columns and multiple pyroclastic flows. The longest flows reached over 10km but were fortunately restrained in uninhabited valleys. Thousands abandoned their homes due to this eruption and many roofs collapsed under the weight of the ash that was deposited. Additionally many local crops and grazing areas were destroyed by the ash layer.
Fuego was essentially quiet from 1987 to 1999, but it is now experiencing a period of ‘heightened’ activity. The most common activity is sporadic, small eruptions that produce ash clouds (events like this can be minutes or days apart), but in more recent years lava flows have become more common and at night incandescence can often be seen at the base of eruption column.
Guatemala has 33 volcanoes of which three are active. Volcan Fuego is not accessible to hikers, but another nearby active volcano (Pacaya) is and it is one of Guatemala’s most popular tourist attractions. Just an hour’s drive from Antigua, Pacaya offers visitors the extraordinary experience of seeing hot, flowing rivers of lava up close! For more information about Pacaya Tours visit: