January 17, 2000
Evacuees returning as Guatemalan volcano threat eases

                  From staff and wire reports

                  GUATEMALA CITY (CNN) -- About 800 people evacuated Sunday from
                  three villages around the erupting Pacaya volcano near Guatemala City were
                  expected to return to their homes on Monday afternoon.

                  Lava continued to flow from the volcano, but officials said the flow did not
                  pose any danger and they expected activity to lessen. The red alert status, the
                  most severe, was lowered to yellow. The airport in Guatemala City, 50
                  kilometers (31 miles) to the north, was reopened after being closed Sunday

                  Eddie Sanchez of the Guatemalan Meteorology Center said Monday morning
                  that ash continued to spew from the volcano and the lava flow had traveled
                  about 900 meters (985 yards) down the mountain.

                  Sanchez said there had been no reports of deaths or major injuries from the

                  The Pacaya volcano is located close to the Aurora airport near the town of
                  San Vicente, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Guatemala City. Pacaya
                  erupted Sunday, sending lava, fire and ash thousands of feet into the air, and
                  forcing the evacuation of about 2,000 nearby residents, according to free lance
                  journalist Martin Asturias.

                  "Some people don't want to leave their homes," Asturias told CNN by phone
                  Sunday night.

                  Estimates of the total number of people evacuated due to the volcano's activity
                  ranged from 1,300 to 2,000.

                  Part of crater appears destroyed

                  Asturias said more than 50 people who were close to the volcano when it
                  erupted had been burned or otherwise injured. "Those people were evacuated
                  immediately and were treated by firemen and emergency services," Asturias

                  Experts at a local seismological station reported glowing lava flowing south
                  from the volcano toward the town of El Caracol. They said part of the
                  volcano's crater appeared to have been destroyed by its own eruption.

                  Luis Alberto Sanchez Flores, of the National Volcanologist Institute, said the
                  eruption was sending spurts of lava 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) into the air and
                  heavy winds were carrying flakes of ash as far as 48 kilometers (30 miles)
                  south of the volcano.

                  Pacaya most active of nation's volcanoes

                  Pacaya is the most active of Guatemala's 32 volcanoes, with three lava flows
                  formed by eruptions between 1989 and 1991.

                  In 1998, the volcano twice spewed up plumes of ash, forcing evacuations and
                  shutting down the airport in Guatemala City.

                     Correspondent Harris Whitbeck, The Associated Press contributed to this report.