The Guatemala volcano "Volcan del Fuego" erupted Thursday, forcing some 33,000 locals to flee the area, emergency services said.
Ash and smoke were spewed into the sky as the volcano began to erupt. The volcano lies 25 miles southwest of Guatemala City and began to send a cloud of ash into the sky in the early afternoon, Sergio Cabanas, director of emergency response in Guatemala's CONRED emergency agency, told Reuters.
Nearly 8,000 people have already been evacuated and almost 23,000 are awaiting evacuation, he added.
Guatemala has four active volcanoes, Reuters said, and the 2010 eruption of Pacaya covered 25 miles of Guatemala City with ash. Airports were closed and hundreds of families were evacuated.
Cabanas additionally said that 17 villages near Guatemala City were evacuated in the biggest such operation the country has ever seen.
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Although the volcano is just six miles from Antigua, a popular tourist destination, Antigua was not in the evacuation zone according to NBC News.
The "Volcano of Fire" has spewed lava that billowed 2,000 feet down its slope, BLIPPITT reported.
"A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash," Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, said to BLIPPITT.
He said the ash from the volcano was nearly half an inch thick in some areas and the government's disaster agency added that homes and buildings were covered with ash miles away.
This is the fifth time Fuego has erupted this year, but its biggest eruption since 1999, a Guatemalan scientist told NBC News.
Teresa Marroquin, a Guatemalan Red Cross coordinator, told NBC News that the group has set 10 emergency shelters and is sending hygiene kits and water.
"There are lots of respiratory problems and eye problems," she said.
Chinca added that "it's almost in total darkness" near the living mountain.