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Eruption at Galeras 15 February 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Colombia, eruptions, Galeras.
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Galeras volcano in south-west Colombia has erupted, showering the city of Pasto and nearby rural areas in ash. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Late yesterday afternoon, 14 February 2009, the INGEOMINAS Pasto volcanological observatory raised the alert level for Galeras to Yellow (III), and at 19:10 local time an explosive eruption took place. The alert level was raised to the highest level, Red (I), ‘eruption imminent or in progress’. At 23:40 local time last night a further bulletin was issued, translation as follows:

Special Bulletin on the Activity of Galeras Volcano, 14 February 2009, 11:40pm

The eruptive event today at 7:10pm was accompanied by a blast wave that was reported to have been heard and felt in such areas as Mapachico, San Cayetano, Genoy, Cabaña de Parques Nacionales (Urcunina area) and other sites in the city of Pasto. Afterwards, from 7:30pm to approximately 8:30pm, ashfall was observed accompanied by rain both on the slopes of the volcano and over the city of Pasto. Additionally, the wind facilitated the spread of sulphurous gases, which were perceived by the population as sickening odours.

The eruptive event was associated with a seismic signal which reached a duration of approximately 40 minutes, with a similar energy release to the eruption of 17 January 2008. The bulletin from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States reported that because of the high cloud cover in the area there was no satellite detection of the eruption column, so it was not possible to estimate its height.

From 7:50pm until the time of this bulletin the activity has shown a decline in seismicity, characterized by the recording of events of low amplitude and energy level, with a behaviour similar to that of the hours preceding tonight’s eruptive event.

Because of the presence of magmatic material at the surface and taking into account the current activity, it is not possible to rule out the occurrence of new eruptive episodes, so the volcanic activity level for Galeras is maintained at: Red (I), eruption imminent or under way.

[End of INGEOMINAS bulletin.]

Some press reports speak of between 7000-8000 people being evacuated, but others of officials advising local inhabitants to remain in their homes. There are no reports of deaths or injuries, or of major disruption beyond that associated with moderate ashfall.

UPDATE: It is clear from the Colombian media coverage of the eruption that hardly any evacuations have taken place around Galeras. The government and local authorities certainly ordered evacuations in accordance with their emergency plans (and foreign media have taken those plans at face value and are reporting ‘thousands evacuated’ without checking further), but the locals overwhelmingly stayed put. ‘The inhabitants of the areas around Galeras volcano are refusing to accept the evacuation order and are staying in their homes’, says a report from Caracol Radio. For more on this see our Galeras eruption update.

For all our Galeras coverage: Galeras « The Volcanism Blog.

Galeras volcano erupts in southwestern ColombiaUSA Today, 15 February 2009
Evacuation after volcano erupts – Press Association, 15 February 2009
Volcano eruption sparks alert in Colombia – CNN, 15 February 2009
8000 evacuated after Colombia volcano stirs – AFP, 15 February 2009

Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program – summary information for Galeras (1501-08=)
Portal Corporativo de INGEOMINAS – Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Pasto – Pasto volcanological observatory main page

The Volcanism Blog