In a special report published 15:40 UTC on April 23, INSIVUMEH reported that Santa Maria (Santiaguito) volcano is experiencing the highest level of explosive activity observed in recent years, with violent eruptions accompanied by ash columns reaching 4.5 - 5 km (14 760 - 16 404 feet) above sea level and pyroclastic flows.
Ashfall is being reported over 60 km (37 miles) from the crater, in the departments of Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu and Mazatenango. Abundant ash fall is reported in villages near the volcano. The villages of Loma Linda and San Marcos Palajujoj are the most affected and are experiencing constant ashfall.
The eruptions are creating pyroclastic flows reaching 3 km (1.9 miles) to the east and west and are accompanied by rumblings and shock waves.
Guatemala: El volcán Santiaguito con el nivel de explosiones más alto de los últimos años. Fumarolas a 5km de altura pic.twitter.com/Ap5uP5HSEC— Geól. Sergio Almazán (@chematierra) April 23, 2016
"This explosive activity is the highest recorded in the last two years," INSIVUMEH said and added that eruptions recorded and observed in the last 4 days have been more violent, expelling volcanic material at a distance of 3 km (1.9 miles).
The volcano has the ability to generate violent eruptions, similar or stronger than those of May 9, 2014, the agency warned.
Ash is present in the atmosphere at a distance of 25 km (15.5 miles) to the west, southwest, southeast and east at an altitude of 4 km (13 120 feet) or more.
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 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. (GVP)
Featured image credit: Multi Versum oficial (YT)