Intense activity was observed at Guatemalan Santiaguito, lava-dome complex of Santa Maria volcano, at 16:00 UTC (10.00 am local time) today. INSIVUMEH reported moderate to strong pyroclastic flows on southeastern flanks. Regions Quetzaltenango and Retalhuleu are on orange alert.
According to Washington VAAC notification issued at 18:44 UTC, volcanic ash was estimated rising up to 7.6 km (25 000 ft) and moving SW-W.
Volcanic material is spreading over an area of at least 20 kilometers around the volcano and can cause respiratory and eye problems and contaminate water sources, INSIVUMEH said.
The relief agencies, including fire brigades, were deployed to nearby regions as a preventive measure.
Ash falls were particularly affecting the villages of Las Marías, San Marcos Palajunoj, El Faro, La Florida, Patzulín, all located on the south side.
V. SANTIAGUITO se estima que el material se esta dispersando en un área de al menos 20 km alrededor del volcán. pic.twitter.com/wi7s4BuiTp— Insivumeh Guatemala (@insivumehgt) May 9, 2014
V. santiaguito entro en fase de erupción con flujos piroplásticos moderados y fuertes en flancos E Y S.E. pic.twitter.com/XNQe28cOVE— Insivumeh Guatemala (@insivumehgt) May 9, 2014
In bulletins issued a few days ago INSIVUMEH and CONRED warned that risk of lahars is increasing with the arrival of wet season.
Pyroclastic flows occurred shortly before 15:00 local time on May 9. According to CONRED bulletin, some have reached a distance of 7 km! The figure seems important and remains to be confirmed but the same report speaks of the destruction of two bridges over the river Nima 1.
Some parts of the Nima 1 river are completely filled with volcanic deposits which increases the risk of lahars.
Video courtesy of Bidkar Acabal
CONRED reported lahars in the Nima I region early on May 10.
Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is one of the most prominent of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The 3772-m-high stratovolcano has a sharp-topped, conical profile that is cut on the SW flank by a large, 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit of Volcán Santa María to the lower flank and was formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902.
The renowned plinian eruption of 1902 that devastated much of SW Guatemala followed a long repose period after construction of the large basaltic-andesite stratovolcano. The massive dacitic Santiaguito lava-dome complex has been growing at the base of the 1902 crater since 1922. Compound dome growth at Santiaguito has occurred episodically from four westward-younging vents, the most recent of which is Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.
Featured image: Santa Maria eruption on May 9, 2014. Image credit: INSIVUMEH