Monday, November 28, 2005

Volcano eruption in Columbia

A volcano has erupted in southwestern Colombia, spewing smoke and ash, and raising fears for the safety of nearby villagers, officials said. Police and emergency officials were on high alert after the 4,300 metre Galeras volcano became active at dawn and dumped heaps of ash on the city of Pasto, over 19 kilometres away. Local experts said they could not rule out the possibility of further eruptions.

The government this month ordered the preventive evacuation of thousands of people living in the shadow of the volcano amid signs of an imminent eruption. But many farmers are believed to have defied the order and stayed behind, fearful of losing their livelihoods by leaving crops unattended. Pasto Mayor Raul Delgado said, the mandatory evacuation order was still in effect. Schools and many offices in Pasto were closed, as thousands evacuated from nearby towns of Briceno and Florida.

Army and local aid officials helped people move valuables out of their homes and transfer them to shelters. But many were unwilling to leave their homes. A resident of Briceno, Carla Rosa, said she was going to stay, adding "if something more severe happens, then we will go for an immediate evacuation."

The Galeras has a long history of activity, fraying nerves in many of Narino state's towns. More than 100 minor tremors were felt in the city during the volcano's last major eruption, in April 2002, though no damage or injury was reported. A 1993 eruption killed nine people, including five scientists from around the globe who had descended into the crater to sample gases at the moment it blew.

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