At least 25 people, including three children, were killed and almost 300 injured on Sunday in the most violent eruption of Guatemala's Fuego volcano in over four decades, officials said.
David de León, spokesman for the disaster agency, said about 300 people had evacuated the area around the volcano. It then began sending lava flows down the mountain's flank and across homes and roads around 4 p.m.
Dozens of people are missing with over 2,000 more having been evacuated from the affected areas, the Noticias 4Vision broadcaster reported.
Ash was falling on the Guatemala City area as well as the areas of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla, which are in south-central Guatemala around the volcano.
Pictures from the National Disaster Relief Agency of Guatemala show ash clouds pluming from Fuego volcano and the devastating aftermath of the Guatemalan volcano.
"It's a river of lava that overflowed its banks and affected the El Rodeo village".
After awakening on Sunday, and for the second time this year, the Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) has generated strong pyroclastic flows in the Barrancas de Cenizas, Mineral, Seca, Taniluya, Las Lajas and Barranca Honda localities, the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction in Guatemala (Conred) said.
The volcano is about 25 miles from Guatemala City, the country's capital, which has a population of about three million people. Two of the dead were children who burnt to death as they watched the eruption from a bridge, officials said.
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Numerous police, zookeepers, and firefighters are combing the zoo looking for the animals before they wandered into the town. Local authorities have advised residents to stay indoors and call the police if they saw any of the animals .
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said he would issue a declaration of a state of emergency to be approved by Congress and urged people to listen to warnings from emergency officials.
The volcano that erupted is dubbed the Fuego volcano, which means "fire" in English. Numerous dead came from the three towns of El Rodeo, Alotenago and San Miguel los Lotes.
Lesser amounts of ash fell on Guatemala City, which is 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the volcano.
An ambulance of the volunteer firefighter unit carries the wounded from the village of El Porvenir after the eruption.
The Spanish colonial-era city is Guatemala's top tourist attraction.
The conical Volcan de Fuego reaches an altitude of 12,346ft (3,763 meters) above sea level at its peak.
The capital's global airport has also been closed due to the danger the ash poses to planes.