Saturday, July 15, 2006

Colombia volcano provokes alert

Galeras volcano in Colombia spews smoke and ash
Officials are closely monitoring the volcano's activity
The Colombian authorities are urging several thousand people to leave their homes on the slopes and foothills of a volcano that is spewing ash and smoke.

A state of maximum alert is in force around the Galeras volcano in the south-west of the country.

About 2,000 people from nearby villages have so far been taken to shelters.

The last major eruption from Galeras, one of Colombia's most active volcanoes, killed nine people in 1993, including scientists monitoring it.

An explosion of rock and gas from the volcano on Wednesday prompted the local authorities to step up plans to evacuate the surrounding areas.

Television pictures showed thick clouds of ash over the city of Pasto, whose 400,000 residents live about 8km (5 miles) from the volcano.

The Vulcanological Observatory in Pasto is monitoring the situation and latest reports from the area say the volcano's activity has now lessened.

The Galeras volcano, 520km (320 miles) south-west of the capital, Bogota, has a long history of activity.

Last November, it spewed ash that fell up to 50km (30 miles) away.


Java volcano alert level reduced

Merapi emits clouds of hot gas on 14 June 2006
Merapi has been sending out gas and lava since May
The Indonesian authorities have downgraded the alert status for Mount Merapi after a recent decrease in volcanic activity.

The central Java volcano began emitting gas clouds, ash and streams of lava in May, prompting scientists to declare the highest alert level.

The latest decision means residents who were taken away from Merapi's slopes can return to their homes.

But officials warned people not to get too close to the restive mountain.

Government volcanologist Subandrio confirmed the decision to lower the alert.

"There have been no more hot clouds in the past two days, while avalanches of hot lava also have decreased in both frequency and reach," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

But officials said this did not mean the danger was over.

Residents in an evacuation centre near Yogyakarta
Thousands of residents were forced to leave their homes

"People are advised not to get nearer than 8km (five miles) from Merapi's peak," an expert from the Yogyakarta volcanology office told AFP.

Merapi, which means "mountain of fire", is one of the most fearsome volcanoes in the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

Two men died on the mountain in June when they became trapped by volcanic debris while sheltering in a bunker.

Thousands of residents had to leave their homes and move to temporary camps to avoid the clouds of hot gas, ash and other debris.


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