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Death toll from Guatemala volcano eruption rises to 65

Staff Writer |
The death toll from the eruption of a highly active volcano near Guatemala's capital rose to 65, said the country's disaster management agency on Monday.

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The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala (CONRED) said on Twitter that by 5:00 p.m. local time (2300 GMT), the death toll reached 65, up from an earlier 33, as more bodies were pulled from under rivers of ash and mud that swept down from Fuego volcano.

The figure may still increase as local residents and rescue workers fear that more people might be trapped in rubble.

According to CONRED, 3,271 people have been evacuated, 1,916 people have been settled in shelters and over 1.7 million have been affected.

Fuego volcano exploded around noon on Sunday and lava began flowing down in the afternoon.

According to a report from CONRED, the eruption is "the strongest one recorded in recent years."

A state of disaster has been declared for the southern departments of Escuintla, Sacatepequez and Chimaltenango, which suffered the biggest impact.

Due to the magnitude of the eruption, ash also fell over neighboring Honduras, residents of the towns of Copan and Ocotepeque reported on Monday.

"Today we woke up with residue from the volcanic mass that occurred in Guatemala," Juan Ramon Mejia, commander of the 120th Infantry, said.

"We have seen this kind of residue on the streets and on the cars of the city," Mejia added.

In Guatemala City, La Aurora international airport was reopened after suspending operations due to ash clouds, Mexico's General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics said, but some airlines still canceled flights due to security concerns.

In the early hours of the day, at 9:06 a.m. local time (1506 GMT), a moderate 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck 105 km southwest of southern Guatemala's port of Champerico.

The U.S. Geological Service said the epicenter of the quake was at a shallow 10 km below the surface of the earth.

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