ANTIGUA, Guatemala – A terrifying eruption of one of the world’s most active volcanoes tapered off Friday into a draw for delighted tourists, who snapped photos from a neighboring colonial city and made plans to take night hikes to see glowing rivers of lava.
Villagers were returning to their homes on the flanks of the mountain as it wound down its largest eruption in nearly four decades, spewing smaller amounts of ash and lava. Guatemalan authorities reduced the alert level from the highest, red, to orange around the Volcan del Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, and said Thursday’s ferocious lava flow was now two smaller, 3,000-foot streams.
Tourists walking the cobblestone streets of the colonial city of Antigua, about six miles from the volcano, said they were making plans to take guided trips to the mountain to see the lava, and guide companies said they were getting dozens of calls for tours.
Nilton Dasilva, a church group leader from Northfield, Ill., said he decided to take a detour during a group trip to a nearby coffee plantation and try to get as close as safely possible to the volcano.
“Now that we know it erupted, we’re going to try to stop on the way and maybe take some pictures,” Dasilva said.
Emergency workers reported that many villagers living around the slopes of the volcano had begun returning home. The Red Cross of Guatemala was winding down operations, coordinator Sergio de Leon said.
Guatemalan authorities ordered the evacuation of more than 33,000 of the 62,000 people living immediately around the volcano, many in isolated indigenous villages.