BOGOTA, Colombia — A volcano that killed as many as 25,000 people in a 1985 eruption rumbled and began spewing a thick column of ash and steam Friday. President Virgilio Barca ordered an evacuation of the immediate area.
Pilots reported that the column of steam and ash was reaching 28,000 feet over the cone of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano at sunset Friday, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said in a news release.
About a quarter-inch blanket of ash covered much of nearby Manizales, the capital of the coffee-growing area of Caldas, situated about 20 miles northwest of the volcano by Friday afternoon, a radio station there reported.
"The situation is dangerous," said Eduardo Parra, director of Colombia's Volcano Institute at Manizales.
About 600 people live in villages and farms within six miles of the volcano were told to leave the area immediately, Parra said. An estimated 50,000 people live within a 15-mile radius of the volcano.
Emergency workers in the states of Caldas and Tolima began evacuating people Friday afternoon, the Colombian radio network RCN reported.
The Andes Seismological Institute said it was recording almost constant tremors from the volcano, which has been extremely active over the past four days.