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AP Explains: A look at Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire

NEW YORK – Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire erupted at the weekend, spewing deadly clouds and rivers of ash and pulverized rock. It is one of the 11 active volcanoes in the Central american country that is located on the so-called Ring of Fire.

Some questions and answers about the volcano:

HOW BIG IS IT?

At its peak, the volcano is 12,346 feet (3,763 ft) above sea level. It is an example of one of the largest and most violent types of volcanoes in the world, the steep walls made from the accumulated layers of lava and ash. The volcano is located 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of Guatemala City and only about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the colonial city of Antigua, one of Guatemala’s most popular tourist destinations.

HOW ACTIVE IS IT?

This volcano is probably the most active in Guatemala, according to the National Institute for Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology. Records of the activity go back to the early 1500’s and the recent reports show that the volcano is continuously erupting since 2002. For Sunday’s eruptions, the most recent event began on May 17, when a mudslide of water and stones began to walk down the slope of the volcano, followed by explosions and ash plumes that rose almost 3300 feet (1 km). The eruptions continued for at least four days, but were much smaller then Sunday the big eruption, which reached almost 15,000 feet (4.5 km).

THERE WAS A WARNING?

The authorities say they are closely monitoring the volcano after the activity picked up around 6 pm and Sunday. But there was no indication that an eruption would be worse than the previous one, and no evacuations were ordered. The disaster agency Conred issued standard precautions, telling people to wear masks and cover their food and water. A powerful explosion about 2 hours sent a river of red-hot ash and rocks down the volcano flows. “He traveled a lot faster. It came in communities right when the evacuation warnings were generated,” Conred spokesman David de Leon said.

WHAT IS THE RING OF FIRE?

It is a horseshoe-shaped region around the Pacific Ocean that extends from South America, the west coast of North America, and is rounded off to Japan, the Philippines and New Zealand. Along a series of fault lines, it contains about three-quarters of the world’s active volcanoes. While it is called a ring, Janine Krippner, a volcanologist in Concord University in the u.s. state of West Virginia, says the volcanoes are not really connected. The eruption of one of them will not set off the neighbors, ” she said.

HAWAII KILAUEA VOLCANO DIFFERENT?

Yes, Kilauea is a different kind of volcano. It began as an underwater volcano and built up with continuous lava flows that formed a shield-like shape with gentle slopes. Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has been erupting continuously since 1983. It is not in the Ring of Fire and the possibility that it may have led to Guatemala’s Volcano of Fire is very small, according to Krippner. It is very rare for a volcano to lead to another, ” she said.

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AP reporter E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of science Education.

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