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Nevado del Huila: alert level raised 17 October 2009

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The alert level at Nevado del Huila volcano in Colombia has been raised to the second-highest level of Orange (Naranja), ‘eruption probable within days or weeks’. The bulletin issued by Popayán Observatory late yesterday reports that the behaviour of the volcano changed from around 19:55 local time on 16 October, with the detection of a ‘seismic signal of 10 minutes duration, possibly associated with emission of material at the upper levels of the volcano’. This was followed by a continuous tremor signal. Emergency and civil defence organizations have been put on alert in communities around the volcano.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Volcán nevado del Huila en alerta naranjaEl Pais, 17 October 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Nevado del Huila – summary information for Nevado del Huila (1501-05=)
INGEOMINAS Popayán – main page for the Observatorio Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

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Alert status raised at Nevado del Huila 4 April 2009

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The alert level at Nevado del Huila volcano in Colombia was raised on 31 March to the third-highest level of Yellow (III), ‘changes in volcanic activity’. This change from the previous status of Green (IV) was primarily in response to a rise in seismic activity, reports the INGEOMINAS observatory at Popayán.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

Eruption threat remains at Nevado del Huila 6 February 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, Colombia, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila, volcano monitoring.
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In Colombia, Nevado del Huila volcano continues to cause concern. On 3 February 2009 the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Popayán, the observatory operated by the Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería (INGEOMINAS) which monitors Nevado del Huila, issued a bulletin for the period 28 January to 3 February 2009, incorporating observations from an overflight made by observatory staff on a Colombian Air Force plane on 28 January. Among the observations made in the statement are:

  • Elevated seismicity, with 461 seismic events recorded: ‘Of these, 172 are related to fracturing of rocks, 269 to the movement of fluid within the volcanic conduits, three hybrids and 17 pulses of low-magnitude tremor’. The rock-fracturing events included three quakes of magnitudes ranging between 2.0 and 3.5, two at a depth of less than 4km.
  • During the overflight continuous degassing was observed from the upper part of the lava dome, producing gas columns of blue and white colouring, indicating discharges of steam and sulphur dioxide.
  • Web camera images from 28 and 31 January showed gas columns not exceeding 1000m altitude and dispersing to the south-east.
  • Sulphur dioxide emissions were measured on 3 February and calculated to be at a rate of 2148 tonnes per day.
  • Observations show that the new dome on the south flank of Nevado del Huila’s main peak, Pico Central, is continuing to grow.

A video of the 28 January overflight is available from the Popayán observatory main page, or via this direct link (.mpg, 17.2MB). The Nevado del Huila webcam, provided by the USGS, can be viewed through this link.

The images below are captures from the 28 January 2009 overflight video. These images are copyright INGEOMINAS and are reproduced here for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the terms of use.

Nevado del Huila - image from INGEOMINAS/FAC overflight, 28 January 2009 (copyright INGEOMINAS)

Above: General view of Nevado del Huila looking northwards. The captions have been added for clarity and are not part of the original image. The lava dome is located on the south flank of Pico Central. Below, two closer views of the lava dome, showing constant gas-and-steam emissions.

Nevado del Huila - image from INGEOMINAS/FAC overflight, 28 January 2009 (copyright INGEOMINAS)

Nevado del Huila - image from INGEOMINAS/FAC overflight, 28 January 2009 (copyright INGEOMINAS)

Semana reports that the Colombian Interior Minister, Fabio Valencia Cossio, visited the town of Belalcázar on 24 January, in the wake of the government’s decision to relocate the town, which is highly vulnerable to lahars from Nevado del Huila. The Minister confirmed that the entire municipality is to be moved to a new site, along with nine nearby indigenous reserves (the homes and livelihoods of indigenous communities have proved particularly vulnerable to the volcano). The timetable for the move is still not clear, although it is evident that the government takes seriously the warnings of the geologists that Huila will erupt again soon, and wishes to move quickly. Local inhabitants whose homes have already been left uninhabitable by November’s floods will be relocated as a matter of urgency.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Nevado del Huila about to erupt, say experts – Colombia Reports, 5 February 2009
Belalcázar: un pueblo en trasteoSemana, 4 February 2009

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

Colombia evacuates at-risk populations around Huila and Machín 28 January 2009

Posted by admin in Colombia, Machín, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila, volcano monitoring.
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Where you have substantial populations living in close proximity to active and dangerous volcanoes, you can’t move the volcano but you can move the people. Colombia appears to have embarked upon a policy of relocating the populations of volcanically at-risk areas, beginning with Nevado del Huila and Cerro Machín.

The news from Colombia is that the national government is moving quickly to carry into effect its decision to evacuate Belalcázar, the town most at risk from an eruption of Nevado del Huila. If that is so, it is probably a good thing. A report published in El Espectador on 25 January 2009 paints a bleak picture of life in the town since a large part of it was destroyed by lahars unleashed through the Páez valley by Huila’s November 2008 eruption.

Belalcázar High School (reports El Espectador) was left ruined and classes for its 1200 students are suspended until further notice, says the principal, Sister María Odilia Perdomo Leiva: ‘The laboratories, cinema, books, documents, chairs, desks and computers were devoured by the river’. Looting has taken place in flood-damaged properties. The price of almost everything has gone up since the damage to bridges and roads left the town almost isolated. Internet and telephone connections are unreliable. The mayor of the town ordered the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Páez, ‘but the work was badly done and the structure collapsed’, causing an accident that injured a child. The only way of crossing river is the tarabita, a form of cable-car, and locals complain that the fare for using the cable is extortionate: ‘a means of communication has been converted into a means of profit for the owners of the cable’.

The Belalcázar municipal authorities have been saying that the relocation process will take a long time – the secretary of the town government, Eloy Muñoz Salazar, is quoted as saying that he did not believe the evacuation would happen this year: ‘It will take a long time, there will be a social, economic, structural and populational study before the evacuation of the town begins’. The atmosphere in the town has been one of anxiety. ‘The streets are nearly empty and the population gathers in the central park during the day to talk about the future of the town, since the municipal authorities do not seem to know anything … In the shops, stores and bars of Belalcázar the talk is of the relocation’. Of course, there is a human cost to relocation, with people unhappy at having to leave their home town, worried about recouping the value of the property they will be leaving behind, and concerned about where they will end up and what the future will bring.

In the last few days, however, it seems that the national government has decided to end any uncertainty by acting without any of the prolonged studies predicted by Muñoz Salazar, motivated no doubt by the current INGEOMINAS forecast of an eruption of Huila ‘within days or weeks’. The National Emergencies Directorate has confirmed the beginning of the ‘final relocation of most of the inhabitants of Belalcázar municipality in Cauca department’, reports Caracol Radio:

In the first instance 800 families will leave who would be at high risk in the event of a fifth eruption of Huila volcano, provoking an avalanche that would descend the valleys of the Páez and Simbola rivers. The town is located on the left bank of the Páez river, less than one kilometre from where the Simbola river empties into the course of the forementioned river, thus forming the point of greatest risk in the event of an avalanche. Luz Amanda Pulido, director of national emergencies, told Caracol Radio that there is no estimate of how much the relocation will cost.

According to [Pulido], the national government will provide the resources necessary for moving these families from the zone of risk.

La Patria also reports that 800 families will begin to be relocated this week. ‘”The process is in the hands of the communities. They are the ones who will tell us of the most suitable sites for their relocation”, said Luz Amanda Pulido, director of the Sistema Nacional de Atención y Prevención de Desastres’. In the same story, La Patria reports that similar preventive measures are being taken around Machín volcano, which has been showing signs of restlessness recently:

As well as Nevado del Huila, action is also being taken at Machín volcano in Tolima. Cortolima and Invias are readying evacuation routes and purchasing land in at-risk areas … The director of the Corporación Autónoma del Tolima, Cortolima, Carmen Sofía Bonilla, announced that the work being done with the Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi, Igac, concerned with the valuation and purchase of 45 properties that are close to the volcano, is advancing satisfactorily, and that priority is being given to 7 sites around the dome.

It seems that the Colombian government is determined to address the dangers posed by its volcanoes by moving people from harm’s way wherever possible, rather than risking another Armero. The larger the population, of course, the more complex and expensive relocation becomes: no-one is suggesting moving Pasto (population 450,000) from its location at the foot of Galeras. If you can’t move everyone, it is vital to keep them as safe as possible through effective and robust monitoring and early warning systems, evacuation procedures, and public information policies.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Comenzó desaparición de BelalcázarEl Espectador, 25 January 2009
800 familias abandonarán Belalcázar ante la amenaza del Huila – Caracol Radio, 26 January 2009
El Gobierno nacional dio la orden de salida de los pobladores de Belalcázar (Cauca)La Patria, 26 January 2009

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

Nevado del Huila evacuations get under way 27 January 2009

Posted by admin in Colombia, eruptions, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila, volcano monitoring.
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Belalcazar, Paez, Colombia, May 2008.
Above: Belalcázar, May 2008. (Source: Sitio oficial de Paéz en Cauca, Colombia.)

The evacuation plan for the town of Belalcázar near Nevado del Huila volcano (see our post last week) seems to be getting under way, according to this report from CNN today. Around 800 families are being moved out of the town; the report says that emergency officials ‘are asking the 800 families where they want to be moved to’, which is one way of doing it.

I haven’t had time to check what the Colombian press are saying about this yet – will do so later.

Dr Klemetti has further details over at Eruptions, along with an important correction of the CNN report, which he calls ‘almost dangerously erroneous’.

Belalcázar was badly affected during the eruption in November, with lahars destroying bridges and causing serious flooding. The picture at the top of this post was taken in May 2008, while that below was taken on 21 November 2008 and shows the extent of the inundation. Both these pictures come from the Paéz local government website.

Belalcazar, Paez, Colombia, November 2008.
Above: Belalcázar, November 2008. Picture by Giancarlo Cifuentes. (Source: Sitio oficial de Paéz en Cauca, Colombia.)

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Evacuations begin near Colombian volcano – CNN, 27 January 2009

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

Evacuation plans at Nevado del Huila 20 January 2009

Posted by admin in Colombia, eruptions, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila, volcano monitoring.
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The Colombian volcano Nevado del Huila has had a restless few years of late, erupting in the spring of 2007 and again, in deadly fashion, in November 2008. The headline put out today by the English language service of the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina gives the impression of a further sudden outburst of dramatic activity at the volcano: ‘Thousands flee Colombian volcano’. In fact there has been no change in the volcano’s behaviour, and its alert level is high but unchanged at orange (the second highest alert level – ‘eruption probable wthin days or weeks’).

The subject of the report is not an evacuation in the face of immediate danger. It is, rather, a plan for a preventive evacuation. The Colombian government has announced that it will be moving the entire population of the town of Belalcázar, 4000 people in all, to a site less at risk from the volcano’s activity. El País reports:

The National Government will be implementing a prevention plan for the urban district of Paez Belalcázar, in the department of Cauca, which will consist of the removal of all inhabitants of the area before a possible eruption of the Nevado del Huila Volcano.

‘The conditions for a possible further eruption that Ingeominas has detected are delicately balanced, so it is necessary that the Government takes this decision for the benefit of those in the area. It is a complicated, difficult transfer, which will take a long time’, [Justice Minister] Valencia Cossio announced.

Belalcázar, the capital of Páez municipality. is the town that suffered most in the November 2008 eruption, with extensive damage to local communications and services.

It is not clear whether the resettlement is intended to be temporary or permanent. As a risk mitigation procedure the removal of an entire urban population from the vicinity of an active volcano is logical, but very complicated, disruptive and expensive. Whether in this case it is a better option than having effective monitoring, warning and evacuation procedures remains to be seen.

UPDATE, 21 January 2009: The government proposal to relocate the people of Belalcázar has, unsurprisingly, divided local opinion, reports El País today. ‘The people are deeply rooted in the land’, warns the alcalde, James Yaznó:

We hope the studies will find a very suitable site and that the conditions will be right for such a relocation. They will have to look very carefully, because the town has large infrastructures, such as the hospital, which cost a lot of money.

Other local inhabitants (doubtless afraid of the government dumping them on some empty hillside somewhere) stress the importance of fertile agricultural land and good roads and other utilities at the new site, and ask that the relocation be carried out ‘with dignity’; they make the point that it would be wrong to relocate the town but leave surrounding villages at risk; and warn that transferring Belalcázar to a new site ‘would disrupt the rhythms of life and work’.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Thousands flee Colombian volcano – Prensa Latina, 20 January 2009
Gobierno ordenó reubicar a los habitantes de Belalcázar por amenaza del volcánEl País, 20 January 2009
Reubicación divide a BelálcazarEl País, 21 January 2009

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

Nevado del Huila update, 25 November 2008 25 November 2008

Posted by admin in Colombia, eruptions, natural hazards, Nevado del Huila.
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After the eruption, the aftermath: communities around Nevada del Huila volcano in south-west Colombia continue to suffer the destructive and disruptive effects of last week’s eruption. More lahars and landslides have brought destruction and further evacuations to the towns and villages near the volcano, many of which remain cut off from the outside world following the collapse of bridges and blocking of roads. Some people who had returned to their homes since the weekend have had to be evacuated again as new floods threaten their safety.

The town of Belalcázar is slowly returning to normality, reports El País, with the reconnection of power supplies and the provision of aerial cableways to carry food and aid supplies. An airlift is bringing aid to the area, and nearby towns are contributing supplies of food, clothing and medicines. More than 500 people have been evacuated from rural areas by the Colombian Air Force.

The Colombian Interior Ministry’s latest bulletin (issued yesterday) gives the casualty list as six dead and six missing. Four of the dead are children aged from one to twelve years. Some press reports using information from Sunday list the number of dead as ten, with as many as 150 missing or trapped. Many of the most badly affected communities on the upper slopes of the volcano have yet to be reached or contacted by the authorities (bad weather is preventing the use of helicopters, and roads have been destroyed), so final casualty figures are impossible to ascertain at this stage.

The death toll from this eruption is tragic and the destruction is extensive, but it could have been a great deal worse. In 1994 an earthquake at Nevado del Huila triggered landslides and a lahar that killed several hundred people. Lahars are among the most deadly of volcanic phenomena, as Colombia learned at Nevado del Ruiz in 1985 when a populated valley was devastated and 23,000 people died. At Nevado del Huila on this occasion the danger was fully understood, the volcano was efficiently monitored, the alarm was raised promptly, evacuations took place, and lives were undoubtedly saved as a result.

INGEOMINAS are maintaining an orange (level II, where level I ‘red’ is the highest) alert for Nevado del Huila.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog. As featured in Spiegel Online.

[Thanks to Boris Behncke for his correction (see comments) of the reference to the 1994 Nevado del Huila event, which was indeed an earthquake, not an eruption.]

News
Llegan ayudas y retorna la energía a BelalcázarEl País, 24 November 2008 (Spanish)
Alerta máxima por más avalanchas en Belalcázar, Colombia – COPE, 24 November 2008 (Spanish)
Las imágenes de la tragedia en BelalcázarSemana, 24 November 2008 (Spanish)
Volcano landslides kill 6 in Colombia – CNN, 23 November 2008
Colombia confirms 6 dead in Nevado del Huila Volcano eruptionLatin American Herald Tribune, 24 November 2008
Rio Páez evacuation continued amid fears of new mudslideColombia Reports, 24 November 2008

Information
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 Popayán, which monitors Nevado del Huila

The Volcanism Blog

‘At least ten dead’ in Nevado del Huila eruption 23 November 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Colombia, eruptions, Nevado del Huila.
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Colombian Air Force helicopter carrying President Álvaro Uribe at Nevado del Huila, 21 November 2008 (Miguel Ángel Solano, Secretaría de Prensa, Presidencia de la República de Colombia)

  • At least ten deaths reported, apparently caused by lahars.
  • INGEOMINAS reports current low levels of activity and reduces alert level to orange.
  • Video of 21 November overflight available on INGEOMINAS website.

Latest reports from Colombia speak of at least ten fatalities caused by the eruption of Nevado del Huila on 20 November. It seems likely that the total will rise as information comes in from presently isolated areas near the volcano. Most of the victims appear to have come from ‘Indigenous’ communities on the lower slopes of Nevado del Huila and in surrounding valleys, and the deaths seem to have been caused directly or indirectly by the lahars unleashed when the eruption caused part of the volcano’s ice-cap to melt.

INGEOMINAS has lowered the alert level for Nevado del Huila to orange (II). The latest special report on the volcano reports ‘current low levels of activity’ and indications that it has ‘entered a period of seismic stability’. On the other hand, the report notes, there is continuous emission of gas and a strong smell of sulphur, and the new lava dome requires careful monitoring. An INGEOMINAS video (mpg format, 2:18 duration) of the 21 November overflight, showing the new lava dome, is available on the Institute website.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog. There’s also more on this eruption over at the Eruptions blog.

Image: Colombian Air Force helicopter carrying President Álvaro Uribe at Nevado del Huila, 21 November 2008 (Miguel Ángel Solano, Secretaría de Prensa, Presidencia de la República de Colombia). [source]

News
Colombia volcano claims 10 lives – BBC News, 23 November 2008
At least 10 killed in Colombia volcano eruption – AFP, 23 November 2008
Al menos diez muertos por la erupción del volcán Huila – EiTB Noticias, 23 November 2008
Nevado del Huila cobra diez vidasEl País, 23 November 2008
Las víctimas del Nevado del HuilaEl Liberal, 23 November 2008

Information
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

The Volcanism Blog

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.

News
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

Information
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

Red alert in Colombia as Nevado del Huila erupts 21 November 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Colombia, eruptions, Nevado del Huila, volcanoes.
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The Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería (INGEOMINAS) issued a Special Report at 02:30 local time (07:30 GMT) today, 21 November 2008, reporting an eruption at Nevado del Huila volcano. The eruption began at 21:45 local time on 20 November (02:45 GMT 21 November 2008) and appears to have ended by the time of publication of the report. Abundant ashfall was reported, and a lahar descended the valley of the River Páez. Translation as follows:

Special report on the activity of the volcano Nevado del Huila, 21 November 2008, 2:30am.

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:

– Beginning at 9:45pm local time there was an eruptive event at Nevado del Huila volcano.

– A mudflow has been generated that was channeled by the River Páez, affecting the road infrastructure of the region, according to reports received from the residents of the affected area.

– The inhabitants of Taravira, Tóez and La Estrella report abundant ashfall and noises associated with the eruptive event and the passage of the mudflow.

– The Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reports two columns of gas and ash reaching an altitude of approximately 7000 and 10000 metres, measured from the summit of the volcano, with dispersal to the west and south-west of the volcanic edifice respectively.

– At the time of publication a decrease has been observed in seismic activity. It is clear that the eruptive process has finished, although the volcanic phenomenon continues its evolution.

INGEOMINAS remains vigilant and will report in a timely manner the changes that may arise.

A report in El País this morning says that ‘the population of the municipality of Belalcázar, in Cauca [province], and some indigenous communities in the region’ have been evacuated as a result of the eruption. El Espectador reports the population of Belalcázar (which is situated on the River Páez and is vulnerable to lahars) as 13,000: while it is not clear whether the entire town has been removed, the evacuations clearly affect thousands of people.

For all our Nevado del Huila coverage: Nevado del Huila « The Volcanism Blog.

News
Ordenan la evacuación de BelalcázarEl País, 21 November 2008 (Spanish)
Ordenan evacuación de habitantes de BelalcázarEl Espectador, 21 November 2008 (Spanish)
Erupción del volcán nevado del Huila desató dos avalanchas en el río PáezEl Tiempo, 21 November 2008 (Spanish)
Nevado del Huila volcano erupts; thousands evacuatedColombia Reports, 20 November 2008 (Spanish)

Information
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