Eruption of Guatemala's Pacaya volcano grounds planes

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan authorities closed the capital’s international airport on Tuesday as ash and rocks sprayed from the Pacaya volcano, grounding nine planes and diverting an incoming flight to neighboring El Salvador.

Pacaya, about 25 miles (40 km) south of La Aurora International Airport, has been active over the past two months. Its latest eruption on Tuesday coated sidewalks and cars in parts of Guatemala City with dark ash, according to photos from the national disaster relief agency.

The civil aviation authority DGAC suspended airport operations on the recommendation of the national volcanic monitoring institute, and diverted a flight from the U.S. city of Los Angeles to El Salvador, DGAC said in a statement.

“This due to the increase of Pacaya’s volcanic activity, as well as the change of wind direction from the south to the north that has caused us to receive volcanic ash in Guatemala City,” DGAC Director Francis Argueta said in an online video.

Ash coated the entire surface of one plane on the airport tarmac, turning its white wings to the color of slate, according to a photo posted by Argueta.

Evacuations have not been ordered in areas surrounding the volcano.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Angus MacSwan