Powerful eruption at Santa Maria (Santiaguito) ejects ash up to 4.5 km, Guatemala

Powerful eruption at Santa Maria (Santiaguito) ejects ash up to 4.5 km, Guatemala

Two loud explosions occurred at Santa María's Santiaguito lava-dome complex in Guatemala at 15:30 and 15:56 UTC on May 19, 2016. 

The eruption generated a column of ash that reached an altitude of 4.5 km (14 763 feet) above sea level and drifted south and southwest to a distance of about 25 km (15.5 miles).

Pyroclastic flows descended down the slopes of the volcano.

According to INSIVUMEH, ashfall was reported in El Faro, Patzulin, Monte Bello, Loma Linda, San Marcos Palajunoj, Las Marias and some villages in the municipality of San Felipe, department of Retalhuleu.

In recent weeks, this volcano has registered similar events and will continue to generate similar events or larger in the next few days, CONRED warned. People should not remain near the volcanic complex as the material expelled from the volcano is of different sizes and registered in a diameter of 3 km (1.86 miles).

People who are in the communities surrounding the volcano are advised to follow the instructions issued by authorities or community leaders, avoid rumors, protect respiratory tract and eyes, cover food and containers where drinking water is stored and clean their roofs to prevent further damage.

Geological summary

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: Mar Gómez (@MarGomezH)

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