31 December 2013

El Salvador Volcano eruption prompts evacuation

El Salvador’s Chaparrastique volcano also known as the San Miguel Volcano erupted suddenly on Sunday, causing local authorities to start evacuating thousands of residents within a two-mile radius. The eruption started at 10:30 am local time, spewing hot ash and smoke into the air up to a height of more than 3 miles. Reuters reported that some 5,000 people live in the San Miguel region around the volcano.

Two people had apparently been treated at nearby hospitals for respiratory problems possibly linked to the eruption, but no serious cases have been reported yet, said Eduardo Espinoza, Assistant Health Minister told the Associated Press.

Authorities have issued a ‘Yellow Alert,’ meaning that the volcano has to be continuously and closely monitored for “possible renewed increase.” Authorities have also sent investigators to the area to check for the presence of lava.

Thick black smoke and heavy ash was reportedly seen over nearby towns and the coffee plantations which the area is famous for. Authorities have warned people in the vicinity against going near the volcano and advised them to breathe through moist handkerchiefs, as the smell of sulfur spread to towns in the surrounding area. Flights have also been redirected to local airports including the nearby republic of Guatemala.

The volcano, at 7000 feet above sea level, is the third highest in the country. Located 90 miles east of the capital city San Salvador, it is also the most active volcano in the region, with 26 eruptions in the last 500 years, according to the country’s environment ministry. Lava flowed down the volcano once in a 1976 eruption, and it gave rise to violent tremors in 2010.

El Salvador’s government has been monitoring the volcano for the last two weeks, when they detected increased activity inside it. Even as early as 2011, the volcano started releasing small plumes of gases, restricting residents’ access within a mile of the volcano.

The NOAA released an image of the volcano about 2 hours after the eruption began, taken by its Suomi NPP satellite, and BBC news released a video showing ash and gas being spewed into the air as the volcano erupted.


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