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Colombian Volcano Briefly Belches Ash

The eruption covers a town in smoke. Further disturbances are possible, scientists say.

November 25, 2005|From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — A volcano erupted Thursday 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 14,110-foot Galeras volcano became active at dawn and dumped heaps of ash on Pasto, 12 miles away.

"It was a brief eruption of ash for 30 minutes that was not preceded by a temblor inside the volcano," said Marta Lucia Calvache of Colombia's Volcanology Institute. "But there is still a thin plume of ash leaving the crater, and we can't 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 put, fearful of losing their livelihoods if they left crops unattended.

Calvache urged any families who remain in a wide area surrounding the volcano to leave immediately and seek medical treatment if they have trouble breathing.

"A lot of ash has fallen. We are scooping it up and putting it into plastic bags. There is a strong smell of sulfur in the air," said Yolanda Casas, a Pasto resident wearing goggles and a face mask.

The Galeras has a long history of activity. More than 100 minor tremors were felt in Pasto during the volcano's last major eruption, in April 2002, although no damage or injury was reported. A 1993 eruption killed nine people, including several scientists from around the globe who were inside the crater to sample gases at the moment it blew.

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