Sunday, July 16, 2006
Over 8,000 people evacuate following Galeras' eruption
The alert level 1 has been issued. Officially, Galeras volcano is in imminent or on going eruption and Colombian Red Cross has activated its contingency plan as well as its crisis centres at Bogotá and Nariño Departments. First measures for responding to the emergency include the preventive enlistment of five injury stabilization and classification modules and the deployment of equipment specialized in search and rescue, telecommunications and medical relief.
According to the contingency plan, one hundred of Colombian Red Cross’ volunteers trained in water and sanitation, basic healthcare, first aid and needs and damage assessment have been put on alert and are ready to be deployed to the city of Pasto. There, Colombian Red Cross is managing six shelters where 2,400 families have received health cares, training on risk reduction and first aid, as well as psychological support.
Walter Cotte, National Relief Director at Colombian Red Cross, explained that while the alert 1 remains in place, the National Society will focus its efforts on response and evacuation activities. “Our message is clear: zero people living at the risk area. The goal is to reach at least 70% occupation in the shelters we are managing. It is a big challenge, as some people do not believe the eruption will happen”, said Cotte.
Latest reports provided by Colombian Red Cross show the average temporary shelter occupation is around 30% of the total capacity. If needed, the 12 shelters could received from 8, 000 to 10, 000 people and guarantee food and relief supplies to all of them.
The Ecuadorian Red Cross has stated that their response units are ready to be mobilized to Colombia within 24 hours. Both, Colombian and Ecuadorian National Societies have designed a common plan for responding to an emergency originated by Galeras Volcano.
If requested, Ecuadorian Red Cross will support by sending medical and rescue equipment along with volunteers trained as national intervention teams. The Volcano is near to the Ecuador cities of Quito and Tulcán so it would be possible to use Ecuadorian airports to transport humanitarian aid from Ecuador to Pasto.
International Federations’ Pan American Disaster Response Unit has also confirmed its teams are ready to help Colombian Red Cross if needed.
Ingeominas has not discarded the possibility of additional eruptions in the next hours. “Yesterday explosions could be the breathing Galeras was missing, that means, the beginning of a new rest period” explained Walter Cotte. “But also, they could be the start of an aggressive cycle of activity that can include bigger and heavier eruptions.”
Until the Ingeominas issues a clearer forecast, the Colombian Red Cross will continue to support the evacuation process and to people living in temporary refuges.
"Colombian Red Cross volunteers teach first aid techniques to children living at temporary shelters. In addition to providing education on evacuation procedures and provision of basic health care ‘’
As part of the psychological support given by Colombian Red Cross to families living at temporary shelters, children have drawn and designed full colour landscapes and stories.
For some families the stay in the temporary shelters could last up to three months.