Guatemala's Pacaya volcano started erupting lava and rocks on Thursday afternoon, blanketing the country's capital with ash and forcing the closure of the international airport.
A television reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks when he got too close to the volcano, about 15 miles south of Guatemala City.
In the village of Calderas, close to the eruption, Brenda Castaneda said she and her family hid under beds and tables as marble-sized rocks thundered down on her home.
'We thought we wouldn't survive. Our houses crumbled and we've lost everything,' she said while waiting for rescue teams to take them to a shelter at a nearby school.
Meanwhile, strong explosions rocked Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano, prompting evacuations of hundreds of people from nearby villages.
Ecuador's National Geophysics Institute said hot volcanic material blasted down the slopes and ash plumes soared six miles above a crater that is already 16,479 feet above sea level.
Winds blew the ash over the country's most populous city, Guayaquil, and led aviation chiefs to halt flights out of the Pacific port and from Quito to Lima, Peru.