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Galeras update, 16 February 2009 16 February 2009

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Galeras volcano in Colombia is currently quiet following its eruption on Saturday. The alert level remains Red (I), the highest level: ‘eruption imminent or under way’. The latest bulletin from the INGEOMINAS Pasto observatory was issued at 19:45 local time yesterday (about 24 hours after the eruption). Translation as follows:

Special Bulletin on the Activity of Galeras Volcano, 15 February 2009 (7:45pm)

The level of activity of the volcano remains Red (I) (eruption imminent or in progress).

The INGEOMINAS OBSERVATORIO VULCANOLOGICO Y SISMOLOGICO DE PASTO has monitored the activity of Galeras Volcano, with results as follows:

Since 7:50pm yesterday and up to the time of publication of this bulletin, seismic activity has remained at low levels, with characteristics similar to those shown by the volcano before the eruptive event of 7:10pm on 14 February, which permitted the partial release of over-pressurization and of volcanic material.

According to the telemetric stations and field measurements made today, sulphur dioxide (SO2), a gas of typically magmatic origin, remains low (less than 300 tonnes).

Through field monitoring, it was determined that ashfall occurred in the municipality of Pasto, in a corridor localized principally towards the eastern side of the volcano, which involved most of the town of Pasto and other, rural, sectors to maximum distances of 25km from the crater of Galeras. At more distant locations (La Cocha at 25km, Cabrera-San Pedro at about 18km) the deposits of ash were minimal.

The high cloud cover in the region prevented the observation of surface activity and the carrying out of overflights.

The change in seismicity and degassing which has been shown by Galeras in the last few days, possibly reflects a more marked phase of cooling, crystallization and solidification of the material of the dome.

INGEOMINAS continues to watch the evolution of the volcanic phenomenon and will report on changes that are observed.

[End of INGEOMINAS bulletin.]

‘Nobody wants to quit Galeras’ is the headline in El País today, reflecting the almost complete disregard by the inhabitants of areas around the volcano of the government’s evacuation order. The relief shelters – with space for 7000 people, water and electricity supplies, and food for 72 hours – have remained empty. The locals are clear that they are used to the volcano, and will not abandon their homes when they believe there is no danger. El País interviews married couple María Luisa and German Martinez, who have lived their whole lives in Mapachico (‘the first town to disappear from the landscape on the day when Galeras is taken seriously’):

Husband and wife insist that they have known the volcano since they were children and for them they have no fear or worry about their own children growing up beneath it.

‘Nothing will happen, this Saturday there was an eruption and then it was the same as always and nothing happened. We will not be frightened into leaving, when we find that nothing is happening’, says German.

The Martinez family are mistaken, the evacuation of high risk areas is not a whim of the relief agencies. With Galeras there is no security.

A report in El Tiempo points out that Saturday’s eruption was the most significant activity at Galeras since January 2008: ‘Ash, gases, an explosion and seismic movements … such things have not been present [at Galeras] since the beginning of 2008’.

The eruption of Galeras volcano on Saturday had a different character to the ash emissions familiar to those who live nearby.

From the volcano came an explosion that was audible in areas such as Mapachico, San Cayetano and Genoy, and in some places in the city of Pasto.

In addition, according to the INGEOMINAS Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Pasto, the eruptive event had a seismic signal that reached a duration of approximately 40 minutes, with an energy similar to that released in the eruption of 17 January 2008.

However, neither the explosion nor the warnings of the authorities seem to worry those who live near the volcano, as the majority have remained in their homes.

The Volcanism Blog’s report on the January 2008 eruption can be found here. Few people could be persuaded to evacuate on that occasion, either.

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

News
Nadie quiere deja el GalerasEl País, 16 February 2009
Alerta roja se mantiene en zonas aledañas al volcán Galeras; habitantes no quieren evacuarEl Tiempo, 16 February 2009
Seismic activity south Colombia Galeras volcano decreases – Colombia Reports, 15 February 2009

Information
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