As of Wednesday morning 75 people are dead and 192 are missing following rounds of explosive eruptions of Guatemala’s Fuego Volcano. Located about 30 miles from the capitol, Guatemala City, the affected area contains nearly 3 million people. Fuego has been particularly active this year, erupting for a third time so far. What made this volcanic eruption so deadly was its combination of lava and pyroclastic flow. Pyroclastic flows are rapid avalanches of hot gas and rock that can vary in size and travel very quickly down the volcano. The debris from this eruption, responsible for many of the deaths and injuries, has been found miles away from Fuego.
— Clima Guatemala (@ClimaenGuate) June 5, 2018
This week more pyroclastic flows have emerged from the summit of the Fuego Volcano, covering neighborhoods to the south and east in ash. These plumes of ash have reached heights of over 16,000 feet. Continuous explosions forced the temporary suspension of search and rescue effects on Tuesday due to the unsafe conditions.
Volcan de Fuego is located on the ‘Ring of Fire’. The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe shaped area that is about 25,000 miles along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. This area is home to 452 volcanoes. Many earthquakes originate in this region and it is not uncommon for volcanic eruptions take place. The Ring of Fire is full of tectonic plates that are constantly moving, and was formed by oceanic plates sliding under continental plates. In the case of Volcan de Fuego, this volcano was formed due to its location sitting on a subduction zone. A subduction zone is an area where two tectonic plates collide with one another.
This volcano is different from the Kilauea Volcano, which continues to erupt on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea is a shield volcano which slows the eruption proces. Fuego is a stratovolcano, which consists of pressure build-ups inside the volcano and causes more violent eruptions.
Featured image credit: PNC Guatemala