Volcano erupts on Italian island of Stromboli, kills one person

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – A volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli erupted on Wednesday, releasing hot trapped magma in a powerful explosion, killing one person and enveloping the popular tourist destination in ash, witnesses and local officials said.

The person, believed to be a tourist, was killed by falling stones during a walk, a rescue service official said. A second person was injured.

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

Ash rises after a volcano eruption in Stromboli, Italy, July 3, 2019 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Gernot Werner Gruber via REUTERS

The unexpected eruption started fires on the western side of the small Mediterranean island, which lies north of Sicily, off the toe of Italy. Fire crews were being called in from nearby locations and a Canadair plane was already in action.

“We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” said Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island.

“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud,” she told Reuters.

Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the island of Panarea, some 27 km (17 miles) from Stromboli, heard the blast.

“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she told Reuters.

“The cloud got bigger, white and gray. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli,” she added.

Stefano Branca, an expert with the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV), said there had been a “paroxysmal eruption” on the island, when high-pressure magma explodes from a shallow, underground reservoir.

“These are events of great intensity and quite rare,” he told Reuters.

Tourists often climb to the 924-metre (3,000-foot) summit of the volcano and peer into its crater, with small puffs of molten rock regularly blasted into the sky. It was not clear if anyone was on the crater at the time of the blast.

According to the geology.com website, Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and has been erupting almost continuously since 1932.

The island was the setting for a 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and, with other islands in the Aeolian archipelago, has become a favorite location in recent decades for holiday homes for the rich and famous.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Frances Kerry and Peter Graff)

New Mexico blast involving fireworks injures several firefighters

Smoke from an explosion is seen in Roswell, New Mexico, U.S., June 5, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Roswell Today/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Several firefighters were injured on Wednesday, two seriously, in an explosion at a building in Roswell, New Mexico, where fireworks were being stored for the city’s annual July Fourth celebrations, police and city officials said.

The blast occurred shortly after noon at a building on the grounds of the Roswell International Air Center, a commercial airport on the southern outskirts of the town, said Todd Wildermuth, a spokesman for the city.

He said about a dozen firefighters were in and around the building “doing some preparation work” for the city’s upcoming July Fourth Independence Day fireworks display when the explosion occurred.

He said two firefighters suffered serious injuries and were taken to local hospitals. A number of others who sustained minor injuries were treated on the scene.

The cause of the blast was under investigation, he said. The fireworks storage building, at the far west end of the airport property, is far enough away from the airport itself that flight operations were not affected, Wildermuth said.

Roswell, a city of about 48,000 residents in southeastern New Mexico about 200 miles southeast of the state capital, Albuquerque, is perhaps best known for the reported crash of an unidentified flying object in 1947 near what was then known as the Roswell Army Air Field.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and James Dalgleish)

Mexico fuel pipeline blast kills 89, witnesses describe horror

Military personnel watch as flames engulf an area after a ruptured fuel pipeline exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, Mexico, near the Tula refinery of state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), January 18, 2019 in this handout photo provided by the National Defence Secretary (SEDENA). National Defence Secretary/Handout via REUTERS

By Anthony Esposito

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico (Reuters) – Officials now say that at least 89 people were killed after a pipeline ruptured by suspected fuel thieves exploded in central Mexico, authorities said on Saturday, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended the army despite its failure to clear the site before the blast.

Forensic experts filled body bags with charred human remains in the field where the explosion occurred on Friday evening by the town of Tlahuelilpan in the state of Hidalgo, in one of the deadliest incidents to hit Mexico’s troubled oil infrastructure in years.

One witness described how an almost festive atmosphere among hundreds of local residents filling containers with spilled fuel turned to horror as the blast scattered the crowd in all directions, incinerating clothing and inflicting severe burns.

Forensic technicians arranges bodies at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Forensic technicians arranges bodies at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

A number of people at the scene told Reuters that local shortages in gasoline supply since Lopez Obrador launched a drive to stamp out fuel theft had encouraged the rush to the gushing pipeline.

“Everyone came to see if they could get a bit of gasoline for their car, there isn’t any in the gas stations,” said farmer Isaias Garcia, 50. Garcia was at the site with two neighbors but waited in the car some distance away.

“Some people came out burning and screaming,” he added.

To root out the theft, Lopez Obrador in late December ordered pipelines to be closed. But that led to shortages in central Mexico, including Hidalgo, where local media this week said more than half of the gas stations were at times shut.

Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad said 73 people were killed and 74 people injured in the explosion, which happened as residents scrambled to get buckets and drums to a gush at the pipeline that authorities said rose up to 23 feet (7 meters) high.

Fayad said the condition of many of the injured was deteriorating, and that some had burns on much of their body. Some of the most badly injured minors could be moved for medical attention in Galveston, Texas, he added.

Hidalgo Attorney General Raul Arroyo said 54 bodies were so badly burned that they could take a long time to identify.

The crackdown on fuel theft has become a litmus test of Lopez Obrador’s drive to tackle corruption in Mexico – and to stop illegal taps draining billions of dollars from the heavily-indebted state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

Video on social media showed people filling buckets from the pipeline during daylight hours in the presence of the armed forces before the blast.

But Lopez Obrador, who vowed to continue the crackdown on theft, defended the army in the face of questions about why soldiers failed to prevent the tragedy.

“We’re not going to fight fire with fire,” the veteran leftist said. “We think that people are good, honest, and if we’ve reached these extremes … it’s because they were abandoned.”

In the aftermath, soldiers and other military personnel guarded the cordoned-off area that was littered with half-burned shoes, clothes and containers.

More than 100 people gathered at a local cultural center on Saturday afternoon, hoping to get information about loved ones who disappeared. Officials posted information about DNA tests for identification and a list of people taken to hospital.

A resident reacts at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

A resident reacts at the site where a fuel pipeline ruptured by suspected oil thieves exploded, in the municipality of Tlahuelilpan, state of Hidalgo, Mexico January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

‘LIKE A PARTY’

Lopez Obrador said the army had been right to avoid a confrontation due to the large number of people seeking to make off with a trove of free fuel – a few liters of which are worth more than the daily minimum wage in Mexico.

Blaming previous governments for neglecting the population, he said the priority was to eradicate the social problems and lack of opportunities that had made people risk their lives. He rejected suggestions the incident was linked to his policy.

Still, Lopez Obrador had vowed to tighten security in sensitive sections of the oil infrastructure, and the ruptured pipeline was only a few miles away from a major oil refinery.

Pemex’s Chief Executive Octavio Romero told reporters that there had been 10 illegal fuel taps in the same municipality in the last three months alone. Neither he nor the president said exactly when the valves to the pipeline were closed.

Relatives of victims stood huddled together, some of them crying, after the massive blast. Much of the rush to siphon off fuel and the chaos of the explosion was captured on mobile phones and began quickly circulating on social media.

Mexican media published graphic pictures of victims from the blast site covered in burns and shorn of their clothes.

Local journalist Veronica Jimenez, 46, arrived at the scene before the explosion where she said there were more than 300 people with containers to collect fuel.

“I saw families: mother, father, children,” she told Reuters. “It was like a party…for a moment you could even hear how happy people were.”

When the blast hit, people ran in different directions, pleading for help, some burned and without clothing, she said.

“Some people’s skin came off…it was very ugly, horrible, people screamed and cried,” she said. “They shouted the names of their husbands, brothers, their family members.”

Grief-stricken family members blocked access to the field for over half an hour, saying they would not let funeral service vehicles pass until they were told where the dead were being taken.

Lopez Obrador has said his decision to close pipelines has greatly reduced fuel theft, but the death toll has raised questions about potentially unintended consequences.

“There was a gasoline shortage, people one way or another wanted to be able to move around,” said local farmer Ernesto Sierra, 44. “Some even came with their bean pots.”

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by Dave Graham and Christine Murray; Editing by Alexander Smith and Marguerita Choy)

Houthi drones kill several at Yemeni military parade

Soldiers inspect the scene of a Houthi drone attack at Yemeni government military parade in al-Anad air base, Lahaj province, Yemen January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

ADEN (Reuters) – Drones belonging to the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement on Thursday attacked a Yemeni government military parade in the southern province of Lahaj, killing several people, Saudi and Houthi media reported.

The attack comes as the United Nations tries to get peace talks going between the Houthis who control northern Yemen and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi by overseeing a limited ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

The parade was taking place inside a military base in al-Anad district when an explosion rocked the area, eyewitnesses said. They said high-ranking officers including Yemen’s deputy chief of staff had been wounded.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said five people had been killed and several injured. Houthi Al-Masirah TV said the attack had been aimed at “the leadership of the invaders”.

A military source said the focus of the attack had been the podium where senior officers were sitting.

It was unclear if officers were present from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leaders of a Sunni Muslim Arab coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore Hadi’s government, which had been ousted from the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis said in November they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their Yemeni allies, but tensions have risen recently over how to implement the U.N.-sponsored deal in Hodeidah.

The Houthis and the Saudi-backed government agreed to stop fighting and withdraw forces at peace talks in Sweden in December following months of diplomacy and Western pressure.

The ceasefire only applies to Hodeidah province but the British ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, tweeted on Thursday that an escalation anywhere in Yemen “goes against the spirit of the Stockholm agreement”.

Implementation of the deal, the first breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, has stalled as the sides disagree on who will control the city of Hodeidah after the withdrawal.

Yemen descended into war after pro-democracy unrest forced late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Hadi was elected to head a transitional government but after the Houthis took Sanaa he went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis deny getting any help from Iran and say they are waging a revolution against corruption.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Fireball near Bologna airport after road crash explosion

A general view of the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. Italian Firefighters Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) – Two trucks collided on a motorway near Bologna airport in northern Italy on Monday, sending a huge ball of fire and billows of black smoke soaring into the sky.

At least one person was killed and around 55 were injured, 14 seriously, according to local media.

Police said they had closed off the road where the crash took place as well as the surrounding area in Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna.

Firefighters work on the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Firefighters work on the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Italian media said a truck carrying cars collided on a bridge with another tanker truck containing inflammable materials.

Part of the bridge collapsed and the resulting explosion and fire spread to a carpark below the bridge, where several other vehicles caught fire and exploded.

Firefighters and ambulances headed to the scene.

A video shot from a parked car at the moment of the explosion appeared to show someone being engulfed by flames when the tanker exploded.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Texas pipeline blaze put out after seven hospitalized; explosions probed

A pipeline explosion erupts in this image captured from video by a field worker in Midland County, the home to the Permian Basin and the largest U.S. oilfield, in Texas, U.S., August 1, 2018. Courtesy Marty Baeza/Handout via REUTERS

By Gary McWilliams

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Authorities on Thursday were investigating what caused a fire and a series of natural gas pipeline explosions in Midland County, Texas, which sent seven people to the hospital on Wednesday and shut down five lines before being extinguished late in the evening.

Workers and firefighters were responding to a leak when the blast occurred, Midland County Fire Marshal Dale Little said on Thursday. The cause of the original explosions has not been determined, he said.

Five workers with critical injuries were airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, and were being treated at the center’s burn unit.

One man remained in critical condition and three others were upgraded to serious condition, all with burn injuries, medical center spokesman Eric Finley said on Thursday.

The fifth pipeline worker, a Kinder Morgan Inc employee, was listed in stable condition at the hospital, a company spokeswoman said.

Two firefighters responding to the blaze also were taken to hospital on Wednesday for treatment of burn injuries, said Elana Ladd, public information officer for the city of Midland.

Ladd said the pipeline explosions occurred just outside the city of Midland on a rural road, FM 1379, about five miles (8 km) south of Highway 158.

Marty Baeza, a Fort Stockton, Texas oilfield worker who was working at a site about a half mile (0.8 km) from the explosion, said the blast shook the water-treatment unit where he was working.

“It felt like someone had bumped us,” said Baeza. He went outside and saw a large fireball that lit the sky for about five minutes. Firefighters arrived quickly, he said.

Kinder Morgan’s El Paso Natural Gas (EPNG) line was damaged by the blaze, but service impacts are expected to be minimal, spokeswoman Sara Hughes said in an email. The company believes the problem started with a nearby pipeline.

“There was a third-party pipeline involved that also experienced a failure, and preliminary indications are that the third-party line failure occurred before the EPNG line failure,” Hughes said.

Authorities on Thursday morning said they were not able to identify the operators of the other pipelines affected by the blast.

Oil and gas pipelines crisscross Midland County, which is located in the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield. The explosions affected five pipelines which share a transit channel and which were all shut in by operators, a Midland city official said on Wednesday.

Gas prices at the Waha hub, in the Permian basin, increased by 13 cents, or about 6 percent, on Wednesday to $2.23 per million British thermal units, although much of the trade that day would have occurred before the fire, which started at around 11:14 a.m. CDT (1614 GMT).

Thomson Reuters data showed that as of Thursday, the explosions had not affected overall flows of natural gas in Midland County, including on Kinder Morgan’s EPNG pipeline.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

Geologists eye Hawaii volcano for signs eruption may be easing

FILE PHOTO: Lava fragments falling from lava fountains at fissure 8 are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the erupting vent, with the bulk of the fragments falling on the downwind side of the cone as it continues to feed a channelized lava flow that reaches the ocean at Kapoho during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S. June 11, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Geologists are keeping a close eye on the crater of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano and a lava-spouting cone on its flank for possible signs a nearly three-month eruption may be slowing.

Up until Thursday, Kilauea had not had an explosion in 53 hours, the longest break in such activity since May, government geologists said on the last in a series of regularly scheduled news briefings since the eruption began on May 3.

Down Kilauea’s east side, a lava channel flowing from its fissure 8 cone has turned sluggish and its level has dropped, said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Janet Babb.

Could the lava eruption in the southeast corner of Hawaii’s Big Island be easing after destroying over 700 houses and forcing thousands to flee their homes?

“That really is the million-dollar question right now,” said Babb. “We’re watching this closely. I think it all depends what we see after the next collapse (explosion) event.”

Right on cue, a collapse explosion came during the news briefing, kicking out the equivalent energy of a 5.4 magnitude earthquake.

It was the 58th such event in the current eruption cycle as magma steadily drains from the volcano’s summit lava reservoir, causing its crater to collapse.

The USGS released a report last week saying the eruption could last months or years and a main hazard was a possible collapse of fissure 8, or a blockage or breach in its lava channel, that could send some or all lava in a new direction.

Geologist Rick Hazlett of the University of Hawaii at Hilo said material breaking off the cone had so far been flushed down the channel in “lava bergs.”

He did not see any more structures in danger, other than the Pohoiki boat landing, which is 500 feet (152 meters) from the lava.

“We’re not very worried at the moment about the loss of further facilities,” said Hazlett. “This can be maintained for many months without the risks of a major diversion.”

As to whether crater explosions are winding down, Babb said it was too early to say.

“We need to wait and watch and see how the next collapses occur, to see if this interval between collapses is indeed increasing, or if this was an anomaly,” she said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Fireworks blasts kill at least 24 near Mexico City

A firefighter talks to a resident at a site damaged due to fireworks explosions in the municipality of Tultepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Two explosions at fireworks workshops outside Mexico City on Thursday killed at least 24 people, including rescue workers, and injured dozens more, officials said, in the latest deadly blast to hit a town known for its fireworks production.

After a first blast in the municipality of Tultepec, firefighters, police and other rescue workers arrived at the scene when a second explosion occurred, the state government said in a statement.

“Emergency crews attended the call of the first explosion, when a second incident occurred, killing and injuring members of these groups,” the statement said.

Television images showed a plume of smoke rising over buildings on the outskirts of Tultepec and scores of firefighters and rescue workers at the scene.

The attorney general’s office for the state of Mexico, the country’s most populous state which rings the capital, said that 17 people had died at the blast site and another seven died in hospital.

Another 49 people were injured, the statement added.

A series of blasts have taken occurred at the fireworks markets, workshops and depots in Tultepec, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Mexico City, including massive explosions in a market in December 2016 that killed around three dozen people.

Luis Felipe Puente, the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, said the sale of fireworks in the area would be suspended and permits of manufacturers would be reviewed.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Additional reporting by Noe Torres; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)

Explosion at Hawaii volcano spews ash as lava flows into sea

Gas and steam rise from a volcanic fissure in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Reuters) – A small explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea Volcano on Sunday sent ash spewing into the air, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Lava fountains from a fissure in the volcano reached as high as 180 feet (55 meters) from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing flows of molten rock into the ocean, it said.

“Seismic activity at the crater continues with gas explosions and ash eruptions under 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). While the eruption is never predictable, conditions appear stable for the moment,” Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said in an email.

Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

The eruption, which entered its 39th day on Sunday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles (km) to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

No one has died in this Hawaii eruption but some 600 homes have been swallowed by lava flows from Kilauea since May 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said last week.

Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise about 160 homes, was completely erased, and at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots, Kim said.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)

Guatemala warns of falling ash as volcanic activity picks up

Residents pause during a search at an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano in San Miguel Los Lotes in Escuintla, Guatemala, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

By Sofia Menchu

SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala (Reuters) – Guatemalan officials warned of falling ash from the Fuego volcano late on Thursday and urged caution with flights as the Central American country recovers from devastating eruptions that have killed at least 109 people.

The seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute Insivumeh advised the civil aviation authority to take precautions with flights amid renewed activity from the peak, which produced a massive eruption on Sunday.

Relatives of victims of the eruption of the Fuego volcano receive food from volunteers outside the morgue of Escuintla, Guatemala 7 June, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

Relatives of victims of the eruption of the Fuego volcano receive food from volunteers outside the morgue of Escuintla, Guatemala 7 June, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

The death toll from Fuego’s most violent eruption in four decades has been gradually rising and now stands at 109, the Guatemala’s disaster and forensic agency Inacif said earlier on Thursday.

Authorities have said a communication breakdown between CONRED and volcanologists in Guatemala delayed evacuations from the surrounding area.

Guatemala’s public prosecutor said on Thursday it would open an investigation into whether protocols were followed to inform proper decision-making in the handling of the disaster.

Rescue teams have been searching frantically for survivors and victims in the ravaged landscape, which is covered in ash and lava.

The eruptions have showered volcanic ash over a vast area and spewed deadly, fast-moving pyroclastic flows through nearby towns.

The U.S. government expressed its “deepest condolences” to the victims on Thursday and said it was sending emergency aid at Guatemala’s request, including an unspecified amount of financial resources to help with food, water, and sanitation.

Residents wait in line to receive aid at an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano at the village of Sangre de Cristo in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Residents wait in line to receive aid at an area affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano at the village of Sangre de Cristo in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

The White House said in a statement it was also dispatching aircraft to transport burn victims for treatment in Florida.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) raised concerns about the economic cost of the disaster in the poor country.

“We should not underestimate the scale of this disaster. Critical, emergency needs are still enormous, and affected communities will need sustained and long-term support,” IFRC President Francesco Rocca said in a statement on Thursday.

Rocca noted that ash had fallen across more than half of Guatemala, covering areas where agriculture is crucial.

“We hope it will not mean a secondary disaster,” he said.

The IFRC has pledged more than 250,000 Swiss francs ($253,000) to support rescue efforts and said those worst hit would need at least a year to recover.

The suspension of rescue efforts around the volcano may be lifted if conditions on the ground improve, CONRED said.

Volcan de Fuego, which means “Volcano of Fire” in Spanish, lies about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the capital, Guatemala City.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Sandra Maler and Paul Tait)