Friday, December 09, 2005

Theft of equipment makes monitoring of volcano quite difficult

Thieves took vital equipment from a seismic-monitoring station on the slopes of Colombia’s Galeras, whose eruption last month prompted an alert for more than 8,000 residents in the Andean nation’s south, authorities said Friday.Officials with the government’s Ingeominas earth-science institute said the devices were taken two days ago.

Located just a few kilometers from Pasto, a city of roughly 380,000, Galeras erupted on Nov. 24, putting more than 8,000 residents near the volcano on alert and leading authorities to order the evacuation of many residences.Though the volcanic activity subsided by early December, Ingeomi-nas stressed the importance of continuing to monitor Galeras.

“This robbery hurts the task of monitoring the volcano,” the institute’s deputy director, Marta Calva-che, told reporters, adding that the equipment was taken from a permanent observation station at an altitude of 3,800 meters.She said the thieves grabbed the solar batteries that power the seismic-measuring devices as well as radio antennas used to transmit data from the remote site.

Galeras, which rises more than 4,200 meters above sea level, has erupted a dozen times since becoming active again in 1989.Calvache appealed to the thieves to return the equipment, which she described as “fundamental” to the task of alerting area residents to dangerous eruptions.

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