May 22, 1999

Guatemala volcano spews ash, rock near tourist town

                  ANTIGUA, Guatemala (Reuters) -- A volcano that looms above a popular
                  tourist city in southwestern Guatemala spewed rocks and ash on Friday,
                  prompting precautionary evacuations in at least one outlying area, officials
                  told Reuters.

                  Aviation officials in Guatemala recommended that no aircraft fly within a
                  25-mile (40-km) radius of the volcano due to billowing ash.

                  The Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire), which last erupted in 1978, began
                  ejecting ash and rocks of about one third of an inch (one cm) in diameter at
                  6 p.m. (0000 GMT) near the colonial city of Antigua, some 30 miles (48
                  km) southwest of the capital Guatemala City, said Eddy Sanchez, an official
                  at the National Seismology Institute.

                  No injuries or damage was reported, but officials evacuated 16 people from
                  near the village of Alotenango, some 19 miles (30 km) north of the crater,
                  Sanchez said.

                  "We consider this a volcano of high risk. In the past the Volcan de Fuego
                  has had violent eruptions," he added.

                  Guatemalan military personnel have been sent to the area to keep watch.

                  "For the moment we haven't evacuated any villages but we are on alert," said
                  Pablo Solis, a firefighter in Antigua.

                  A column of thick smoke was visible from Antigua and roads near
                  Alotenango were covered with about one inch (2.5 cm) of ash, Solis said.

                  Volcanic eruptions are not uncommon in Guatemala.

                  Last May, Guatemala's Pacaya volcano, 12 miles (20 km) south of
                  Guatemala City, threw up 1,000-foot (300-metre) columns of smoke,
                  limiting visibility at Guatemala City's Aurora International Airport.