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Volcano blasts rock 2 regions


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GUATEMALA CITY – Explosive eruptions shook two huge volcanos in Central and South America yesterday, forcing thousands  of people to flee their homes  and disrupting air traffic as ash drifted over wide regions.Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks  on Thursday afternoon, blanketing the 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-sized 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 killed by a shower of 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.The last images of Archila broadcast by Channel 7 television show him standing in front of a lava river and burning trees, talking about the intense heat.De Leon said three children between the ages of seven and  12 were missing.At least 1 600 people from villages closest to the volcano have been evacuated to shelters.Ash 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.In Guatemala City, bulldozers scraped the blackened streets while residents used shovels to clean their cars and roofs. The blanket of ash was three inches thick in some southern parts of the city.The government urged residents not to leave their homes unless there was an urgent need.La Aurora airport would be closed  at least until today as crews  cleaned up said Claudia Monge,  a spokeswoman for civil aviation.Meanwhile, strong explosions rocked Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuation  of hundreds of people from  nearby villages.The National Geophysics Institute said hot volcanic material blasted down the slopes of the volcano,  and ash plumes soared six miles above a crater that was already  16 479 feet above sea level.Officials said that within a few hours, winds already had blown  the ash over the city of Guyaquil, 110 miles to the southwest.The eruption led aviation officials to halt flights out of Guayaquil and from Quito to Lima, Peru.Institute researcher Sandro Vaca told Radio Sonorama that  the eruption “seems to be  growing rapidly”. There were no immediate reports of deaths. (AP)