Disasters & Accidents

Colombia preparing for possible volcanic eruption

Bogota, Apr 4 (EFE).- Authorities in Colombia stepped up preparations on Tuesday for a possible eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano.

An orange alert was declared last week due to increased seismic activity.

“We will issue evacuation instructions for people if the government receives detailed information about the volcano situation,” said Luis Fernando Velasco, the director of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management.

Velasco is expected to meet with the mayors of 14 municipalities in the Tolima Department around the area of the volcano in the Colombian city of Ibague to “review the actions that have been carried out.”

The country has made progress in disaster prevention through an alert network, Velasco said, adding that “it is evident that we are better today than in 1985” when the November 13 Nevado del Ruiz eruption caused the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.

The eruption and the melting of glaciers back then caused an avalanche in Tolima’s town of Armero, leaving more than 23,000 of its 25,000 inhabitants dead.

“People already know the evacuation zones (…) and what paths to take depending on the threat,” Velasco said.

Jose Antonio Garcia, the mayor of Murillo town in Tolima, told Caracol Radio that they began to “take some measures to evacuate some families, only those who live on the banks of the Lagunilla river, the same river that caused the Armero tragedy in 1985.”

A state of public calamity has been declared in the towns of Casabianca, Herveo, Murillo and Villahermosa as a preventive measure for the possible eruption by the disaster risk management of Tolima, according to Garcia.

He also urged mayors of these towns to evacuate families living in high-risk locations and “carry out drills to verify the capacity of shelter sites, and evacuation routes.”

The Colombian Geological Service (SGC) reported Monday that there was a decrease in the volcano’s seismic activity over the weekend but that does not mean that the danger is reduced because these types of movements are variable.

“The rock fracturing seismicity record continues inside the volcanic edifice. On April 2, 5,400 events were recorded,” the SGC reported in a statement.

The SGC, which publishes a daily report on the volcano, also said there were ash emissions and degassing.

The Nevado del Ruiz is located between the departments of Caldas and Tolima, with an altitude of 5,364 meters. EFE


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