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 Death toll climbs to 3 from Guatemala volcano 
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Post Death toll climbs to 3 from Guatemala volcano
Guatemala City, Guatemala (CNN) -- The death toll from the eruption of a volcano in Guatemala has risen to at least three people, an official said Friday.

Two villagers from El Bejucal and a reporter from CNN affiliate Noti 7 were killed as a result of Thursday's eruption of the Pacaya volcano, said David de Leon, a spokesman for the national disaster commission.

The three victims were crushed by rocks strewn by the volcano. :shock:

Pacaya, located about 15 miles (25 km) south of Guatemala City, began spewing ash and soot about 7 p.m. (9 p.m. ET) Thursday.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a state of calamity for 15 days and called for calm as the eruption spread ash over the capital, prompting evacuations and shutting down the city's international airport.

Four people were missing as evacuations continued, the president said.

At least 1,800 people have been placed in shelters after four villages near the volcano were evacuated, de Leon said.

The runway at La Aurora International Airport -- the third busiest airport in Central America in terms of passenger traffic -- was covered with ash and will be closed Friday, Colom said.

About 25 percent of the airport's daily flights had to be diverted to alternative airports after La Aurora was closed around 7:30 p.m., said Monica Monje with Civil Aeronautics.

The states of Guatemala, Escuintla and Sacatepequez were hardest hit. Classes were canceled Friday in Escuintla and Guatemala states, Colom said.

A slight rain that fell over the area mixed with the ash, hindering visibility.

Alejandro Estrada Garcia, a 21-year-old student in Guatemala City, filed a CNN iReport detailing his difficulties.

"I was returning from the university," he said. "It was really hard to drive because the ash was coming down with a bit of rain, so it was kind of muddy and really hard to get off the windshield. I drove with my window open so I could see." :shock:

Pacaya had been dormant for a century until 1965, when it erupted again. It has been active since.

Its summit has an elevation of 8,373 feet (2,552 meters).

CNN's Gustavo Valdes and journalists Bertha Ramos-Rodriguez and Alexia Rios Hayashi contributed to this report.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Fri May 28, 2010 8:20 am
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