Thousands of people were evacuated and airports were closed as two volcanos erupted in Guatemala and Ecuador Friday, choking major cities with ash, and leaving two dead, officials said.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom declared a 15-day state of emergency around the Pacaya volcano, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital.
The volcano erupted again Friday after first bursting back to life Wednesday, killing two people, including a television reporter covering the event, AFP reports.
The capital's La Aurora International Airport, closed because of the ash clouds, was to remain shut for 20 hours. Colom said the runway had been covered by an inch of volcanic sand. Cleanup efforts were underway.
"We have to have calm, maturity, and do only what is essential while we see how the event evolves," Colom said in a statement. He was set to tour the zone Friday.
Homes and cars in the capital were covered by a messy black coat. The government issued cleanup instructions, telling residents not to wash the sand into drains to avoid clogging them.
Mountainous Guatemala is dotted by volcanoes, and the 8,373-foot Pacaya is among eight that are active, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The strike was defensive in nature and came in response to three attacks on the US military in February