The smoking but not erupting Volcán de Fuego above the Guatemalan city of Antigua that we visited in October, 2018, has blown again. The eruption began on November 19th. Thousands have been evacuated so far. Fuego is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in Central America and this proves it. It also erupted last June. That incident killed 194 people, and more than 200 are still missing.
On our way to Antigua we drove through the devastation. The highway we were on went right through it, and there were signs of recovery all around. There was lots of truck traffic and machinery grooming the terrain along National Route 14, especially around the golf course affected. Even clothes were hanging on drying lines as people were trying to return to normal. A store or two in the area had reopened and there were vendors operating what looked like temporary stalls.
Lots of vehicles were using the highway, but our driver was clearly uncomfortable. He took us back to the ship via another route, which gave us a chance to see some chicken busses and Guatemala City. Fuego is less than 19 miles from Antigua. Another source reports a 9 mile distance. Nine seems more accurate, but I don’t know for sure.
We did not stop, but I was able to take a few hazy photos through the bus window while feeling like a reporter in a war zone. Our host on the bus, a man named Ericka, told us as we drove through the affected area that his country has 32 volcanoes. Yet another source says that Guatemala has 37 volcanos. Ericka told us that the Volcán de Fuego has been erupting regularly for many years and that the lava flows were especially dramatic at night. He told us that many of the locals had refused to leave the area in June and were swept away by the pyroclastic cloud, a fast moving combination of gas and volcanic matter. They are still missing and presumed dead. Pyroclastic flows move quickly down valleys.
okantigua.com rather predictably says, “No. You should not cancel your trip to Guatemala because of Fuego Volcano’s recent or future eruptions.” This historic city is far enough away from current eruptions to be safe. For now. There are 2 other volcanoes visible from Antigua, one is dormant and the other is described as extinct.