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Nevado del Huila update, 22 November 2008 22 November 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Colombia, eruptions, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila.
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The volcanologists at the INGEOMINAS observatory Popayán have issued another special report on the situation at Nevado del Huila, where an eruption occurred on the night of 20-21 November. This report was issued at 18:30 local time (23:30 GMT) on 21 November and reports low levels of seismicity and no current eruptive activity beyond degassing. An overflight took place yesterday morning, revealing the formation of a new crater with a lava dome, located in the south-western part of the highest point of the complex, Pico Central. Translation as follows:

Special report on the activity of the volcano Nevado del Huila, 21 November 2008, 6:30pm.

The level of activity of the volcano is: LEVEL RED (I): ERUPTION IMMINENT OR IN PROGRESS

The INGEOMINAS volcanological and seismological observatory Popayán reports that:

– Seismic activity over the last fifteen hours continues at low levels, with an average occurrence of 5 events per hour.

– This morning an overflight was conducted to the upper part of the volcanic edifice where the following changes in the surface of the edifice were observed:

– The formation of a crater in the south-western sector of Pico Central of approximately 400m diameter, containing within it a magmatic body in the form of a dome, which is currently showing continual degassing from the surface, with gas columns that do not exceed 2000m in height.

– At the time of the eruption part of the hot material that came to the surface came into interaction with the glaciated layer of the surrounding area to form a flood of material what was initially channeled through the Bellavista stream and subsequently flowed through the Páez river.

– Ash deposits on the upper part of the volcanic edifice have covered most of the western sector of Pico Central and Pico Sur.

– There have been reports of falls of ash and sulphur odours in the towns of Corinto, Toribío and Páez.

INGEOMINAS will continue to remain alert to the development of the present process and in particular the evolution of the lava dome that is located on the surface, and will report in a timely manner the changes that may occur.

The Colombian newspaper El País has a vivid report today on Nevado del Huila’s impact on Belalcázar, the municipality most affected by the eruption.

The force of the avalanche that descended the Páez river following the eruption of the volcano Nevado del Huila has left desolation in the region … The crops of cocoa, coffee, orange and tangerine which were planted over recent weeks have been destroyed by the lava that erupted from Nevado … People who have escaped the area on foot say that the fury of the Páez river destroyed at least six road bridges. Also, that the anger of the river was such that it swept along trees, cows and pigs, and that the level of the water was at least 40 metres above normal and left its mark along the valley of the Páez.

Belalcázar, one of the towns most affected by the anger unleashed by the mountain, is totally cut off. From the first creaks of the volcano, power and water services were disconnected. Thus, as almost always happens, the four thousand inhabitants of the urban area had to escape in the midst of darkness.

According to reports from local emergency officials quoted by El País, seven people have been reported missing from villages near the volcano, and among the buildings destroyed were a 1500-student school and 27 houses in the Los Guadales district, along with the local cemetery. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe flew over the affected area yesterday and was full of praise for the way things were being handled:

‘All the seismological and communication systems worked perfectly thanks to the work of geologist Martha Calvache and her team at Ingeominas, and the same is true of the emergency services of Cauca. Additionally, it is worthy of note that the inhabitants of Belalcázar have shown an exemplary discipline, especially in the way they evacuated to shelters and in the unity they have shown throughout this entire process.’

More news on this eruption and its aftermath later. In the meantime, for all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

Se despertó el volcán del Huila – El País, 22 November 2008 (Spanish)
Colombian volcano sets off landslides – Associated Press, 21 November 2008
Avalanches from volcano eruption kill four in Colombia – EarthTimes, 22 November 2008

Global Volcanism Program: Nevado del Huila – summary information for Nevado del Huila (1501-05=)
Portal Corporativo de INGEOMINAS – main page for the Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería
INGEOMINAS Popayán – main page for the Observatorio Popoyán, which monitors Nevado del Huila
Sistema Nacional para la Prevención y Atención de Desastres – main page for the Colombian national emergencies office

The Volcanism Blog