Thousands in Guatemala facing evacuation as Pacaya volcano erupts

Pacaya volcano, Guatemala
The volcano, with a height of 2,500m (8,300 feet), is a popular tourist destination

A volcano has erupted in Guatemala, prompting the authorities to consider the evacuation of some 3,000 people living in the area.

The Pacaya volcano began spewing ash and lava after a powerful explosion on Saturday afternoon.

New explosions were seen on Sunday, with ash clouds reaching a height or at least 4km (3 miles).

Flights have been diverted from the area, some 50km (30 miles) south of the capital, Guatemala City.

The Pacaya is one of three active volcanoes in the Central American nation. The other two are the Fuego and the Santa Maria.

"We are assessing with the National Disaster Management Centre (Conred) whether we will need to evacuate the 3,000 people who live in the villages of El Rodeo and Patrocinio," said the Pacaya National Park director, Humberto Morales.

"Access to the areas around the volcano has been suspended," he told the Prensa Libre newspaper.

The Guatemalan authorities have issued an amber alert, the third highest. It means people must remain alert and be prepared to leave the area at short notice.