More than 33,000 people are fleeing a sudden volcano eruption in Guatemala City.
Guatemalan emergency officials say the evacuees are leaving 17 villages around the Volcano of Fire, which sits 10 miles (16 km) from the city of Antigua.
The volcano is almost always active at a low level and smoke can often be seen billowing from its crater. But larger eruptions are generally rare.
Seismologists say a series of explosions have also been seen coming from the 12,346-ft-high (3,763-metre-high) volcano and lava has spewed 2,000ft (600 metres) down its slopes.
Thick clouds of ash can be seen billowing nearly 2 miles (3km) into the sky and rumblings were heard for several miles around.
Gustavo Chicna, a volcanologist with the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology, said: "A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash".
He added that the cinders spewing from the volcano were settling half an inch thick in many places and that extremely hot gases were also rolling down the sides of the volcano, which was entirely wreathed in ash and smoke.
Guatemala's emergency agency has warned that flights through the area could be affected.
Alejandro Maldonado, the head of Guatemala's disaster prevention agency, said 1,500 families had been moved out of their homes and taken to temporary housing.
There was a general orange alert, the second-highest level, but a red alert is also in place south and southeast of the mountain, where, Chicna said, "it's almost in total darkness."
Teresa Marroquin, disaster co-ordinator for the Guatemalan Red Cross, said the organisation had set up 10 emergency shelters and was sending hygiene kits and water to the affected areas.
"There are lots of respiratory problems and eye problems," she said.