A long-simmering volcano exploded into a series of powerful eruptions outside one of Guatemala's most famous tourist attractions.
Forcing 33,000 people from surrounding communities to be evacuated as thick clouds of ash were sent nearly two miles (three kilometers) high, and rivers of lava snaking down its flanks.
Guatemala's head of emergency evacuations, Sergio Cabanas, said the evacuees were ordered to leave some 17 villages around the Volcan del Fuego, which sits about six miles southwest (16 kilometers) from the colonial city of Antigua, home to 45,000 people. The ash was blowing south-southeast and authorities said the tourist centre of the country was not currently in danger, although they expected the eruption to last for at least 12 more hours.
The agency said lava rolled nearly 2,000 feet (600 meters) down slopes billowing with ash around the Volcan del Fuego, a 12,346-foot-high (3,763-meter-high) volcano whose name translates as "Volcano of Fire."
Volcan del Fuego is one Central America's most active volcanoes and is well known for being active at a low level almost constantly.
"A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash," said Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology. He said cinders spewing from the volcano were settling a half-inch thick in some places.
Teresa Marroquin, disaster coordinator for the Guatemalan Red Cross, said the organization had set up 10 emergency shelters and was sending hygiene kits and water.
"There are lots of respiratory problems and eye problems," she said.