Falling ash from the Pacaya volcano, Guatemala

Falling ash from the Pacaya volcano forced the closure of Guatemala's only international airport for almost 24 hours
The Pacaya volcano close to Guatemala's capital is maintaining "high levels" of activity with strong eruptions, ash clouds and rivers of lava spewing out, officials said on Friday.

The 2,500-meter (8,200-foot) volcano that lies 25 kilometers to the south of Guatemala City has been erupting for 50 days, damaging plantations in the path of the lava.

Pacaya is expelling ash up to 500 meters from its crater, located 2.5 kilometers southwest of the cone, the vulcanology institute said in a statement.

Falling ash was registered in the El Rodeo and El Patrocinio communities, the institute said, adding that "the volcanic activity is considered at high levels."

The activity has produced a lava flow 2.2 kilometers long on the west flank of the volcano.

The national disaster coordination body said the lava had caused "fire and the destruction of coffee and avocado plantations."

Despite the spectacular eruptions, inhabitants of the surrounding villages have chosen to stay at home.

The civil protection body has asked authorities to prohibit people from approaching either the crater or the lava flows due to the risk of falling debris.

On Tuesday, a change in wind direction forced the closure of the country's only international airport for almost 24 hours due to ash.

A powerful eruption of the Pacaya volcano in May 2010 killed a television journalist covering the event.

Guatemala has 30 volcanos including two other active ones.