MIAMI – Guatemalan Authorities were forced to temporarily shut down the main airport in the country due to ash from nearby volcanic activity being blown onto the airport.

Guatemala City La Aurora International Airport (GUA), sits near the center of the capital city, just 48 kilometers Northwest of two recently active volcanoes. 

The change in wind direction from South to North caused substantial amounts of volcanic ash to be spread across the airport.  A number of aircraft can be seen covered with ash, which could seriously damage the aircraft. 

Apart from damage to the physical aircraft, the ashy skies make flight operations extremely difficult and dangerous. According to the Guatemalan Civil Aviation Authority, nine aircraft are grounded and have been affected by the ash.

Graphic: Flightradar24

What Aircraft Were Damaged?

Although it is not immediately clear which aircraft specifically were damaged, a number of commercial aircraft were on the ground when the grounding occurred. 

Among these are two American Airlines Boeing 737s, two United Airlines Boeing 737s, a Copa Airlines Boeing 737, two Avianca Airbus A320 family aircraft and a Volaris Airbus A319. 

Photos from the country’s Aviation Authority show dust almost completely covering a Gulfstream G-II. 

Photo: Guatemala Civil Aviation Authority

Significant Cleanup Required

Due to the ash falling on many parts of the airport, a significant cleanup effort has been underway since this morning to clear as much ash as possible from the ground.

Tweets from Francis Argueta Aguirre, the Director of the Guatemala Civil Aviation Authority, show that workers and military members are using various tools in an effort to clean up the airport.

As of the publishing of this article, the airport remains closed. According to Flightradar24, over 15 flights to Miami, San Salvador, Panama City, Dallas, Cancun, Houston, Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta, among others, have been cancelled.

Featured Image: Guatemala Civil Aviation Authority