GUATEMALA CITY — Rocks spewing from a volcano overlooking the Guatemalan capital killed a television reporter and crushed roofs in villages near the peak, authorities said yesterday. Three children were reported missing.
Major explosions also shook a towering volcano in the South American nation of Ecuador on Wednesday, forcing evacuations of three villages. There were no immediate reports of deaths.
Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing the Central American country’s capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport. President Alvaro Colom declared a “state of calamity.’’
“We thought we wouldn’t survive. Our houses crumbled and we’ve lost everything,’’ said Brenda Castaneda, who said she and her family hid under beds and tables as marble-size rocks thundered down on her home in the village of Calderas. The family was waiting for rescue teams to take them to a shelter at a nearby school.
Television reporter Anibal Archila was hit by burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles south of Guatemala City, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster committee.
De Leon said three children between ages 7 and 12 were missing.
At least 1,600 people from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters.
The volcano’s eruption lost some intensity yesterday, though ash still rained heavily on nearby communities and constant explosions continued to shake the 8,373-foot mountain, according to the Central American country’s Geophysical Research and Services Unit.
The unit reported an ash plume 3,000 feet high that trailed more than 12 miles to the northwest.
Ash no longer fell over Guatemala City, where bulldozers scraped blackened streets. Residents used shovels to clean their cars and roofs, carrying out large garbage bags filled with ash into the streets. City officials pleaded with residents not to dump the ash into sewers.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s National Geophysics Institute reported a major explosion from the 16,479-foot Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuations of three villages nearby.
It said pyroclastic flows of hot volcanic material have blasted down the western slope. The scale of the ash cloud was obscured by clouds.