Published — Friday 28 December 2012
Last update 28 December 2012 3:51 am
CHINANDEGA, MANAGUA: Nicaragua's tallest volcano has belched an ash cloud hundreds of meters (feet) into the sky in the latest bout of sporadic activity, prompting the evacuation of nearby residents, the government said on Wednesday.
The 5,725-foot (1,745-meter) San Cristobal volcano, which sits around 85 miles (135 km) north of the capital Managua in the country's northwest, has been active in recent years, and went through a similar episode in September.
Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo called on residents who live within a 1.9-mile (3-km) radius of the volcano to leave the area. Around 300 families live near the volcano.
"We have some families who have self-evacuated. ... We ask (the people) to go to a safe place, it's just for a few days during this emergency," she said, adding it was a precautionary measure.
A billowing grayish cloud could be seen drifting sideways from the volcano's peak. The volcano also stirred in mid-2008, when it expelled gas and rumbled with a series of small eruptions.
Some 1,500 farmers living on the slopes of the San Cristobal volcano refused to leave, despite being ordered to evacuate as the volcano spewed gas, sand and ash.
"People have not evacuated because we do not want to go and leave the area abandoned," Maria Pereira told AFP.
Pereira lives in "Grecia 4," a community of about 600 people at the base of the volcano, in the Chinandega department.
She said columns of ash "bathed the trees, houses, and roads in white" and "pretty sand fell" in the morning. She said by early afternoon volcanic activity had decreased, though in the evening new columns of ash shot up.
In another community near the volcano, Bethlehem, some farmers resisted efforts of Civil Defense officials to convince them to obey the evacuation order.
Around 140 Civil Defense troops have been deployed to "persuade" farmers to move away from the danger zone, state deputy Colonel Nestor Solis told reporters.
The government issued a yellow alert on Wednesday, ordering the evacuation of 300 families living near the volcano.