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Briton in Guatemala ‘fortunate’ to avoid erupting volcano

The 24-year-old trekked to the base camp of neighbouring Acatenango.

A Briton who climbed the neighbouring peak to a volcano in Guatemala a day before at least 25 people were killed in an eruption has told how he feels “fortunate” to have escaped harm.

Hundreds of people were injured when the Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) exploded shortly before noon on Sunday, spewing ash and molten rock over nearby villages.

Around 27 miles away in Guatemala City, the capital’s international airport was forced to close, with images showing planes dusted with volcanic material.

The Foreign Office has told Britons visiting and living near the capital, the city of Antigua and areas near the volcano to keep up to date with local officials’ advice.

Richard Fitz-Hugh, a backpacker from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, spoke to the Press Association from ash-covered Antigua, around 11 miles from the erupting volcano.

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Lava dust from the Volcan de Fuego, in Guatemala (Richard Fitz-Hugh/PA)

The 24-year-old trekked to the base camp of Acatenango, which lies around two miles from the deadly Volcan de Fuego, on Saturday.

“It was fine then, erupting as normal with lava flows but it was a lot worse today,” he said.

“We heard about six people who were killed and more who were injured, that was at the foot of the volcano.

“We also heard there were a couple of people who were coming down (from Acatenango) early this morning when it started raining small volcanic rocks up to the size of your palm.”

We knew it was active, it's all part of the experience, you go up and see the lava, that's the point of climbing Acatenango British backpacker Richard Fitz-Hugh

Tourists can take guided tours up the Volcan de Fuego’s neighbour to view the frequent volcanic activity.

“We knew it was active, it’s all part of the experience, you go up and see the lava, that’s the point of climbing Acatenango,” Mr Fitz-Hugh said.

“I don’t know anyone who has been physically harmed (on Acatenango), but obviously it wouldn’t be completely safe being up high today – I’m sort of fortunate that I did it before.”

Despite its relative proximity to the deadly volcano and ash covering cars, roads and buildings, life appeared to be continuing as normal in Antigua.

“In the town ash came down for about two hours mid-morning and shortly in the afternoon and it sort of mixed in the rain,” he said.

“Everyone is really calm, there’s a business that is still open. It doesn’t feel unsafe in any way.”

The Foreign Office advised Britons travelling to and from Guatemala to check with their airlines after La Aurora International Airport closed until at least 2pm (8pm BST) on Monday.

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