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Volcano Eruption in Guatemala Forces Area Evacuation

Barely over Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull threat, the travel and tourism industry experienced today a new blow from another volcano that, despite being located some 4700 miles away from its Icelandic fellow, raises the idea of a dreadful continuity across the Atlantic ocean.

This time it was the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala to make the headlines. Hundreds of locales were in shelters today, after the volcano's powerful eruption killed one person and forced the international airport to close.

Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed for about four hours from the volcano 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, injuring dozens of people. Three children aged seven, nine and 10, were also missing in the area, officials said.

On Friday, the volcano was calm and shrouded in thick fog.

President Alvaro Colom late Thursday issued an emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began Wednesday night.

La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano's hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge. Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.

Some 1,700 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 2,552 meters (8,372 feet) above sea level in the tropical Central American nation. They were placed in shelters.

The burnt body of television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.

Within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of the volcano, locals armed with brooms and shovels scrambled to remove sand and ash from the roofs and courtyards of their homes.

The head of the national seismological institute, Eddy Sanchez, warned that lava would continue to spew out at high altitudes.

If you're planning to fly over the southern Central American region, check with your travel agent or airline to see if your flight was or will be affected.

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