Ashes emitted by Colombia’s volcano Nevado del Ruiz has negatively affected tourism, transport and agriculture in the central-eastern region, local media reported Tuesday.
A May 29 earthquake sent plumes of ash 4,000 feet above the volcano’s crater, forcing nearby La Nubio airport in Manizales to shut down. Since then, Nevado del Ruiz has continually emitted ash due to tremors within the volcano, located on the border of the central departments of Caldas and Tolima. Nearby park and tourist attraction Los Nevados has also been closed.
The recent closures, particularly that of the airport, have resulted in a severe drop in tourism, forcing many hotels in the area to lay off employees.
According to Carlos Uriel Zapata Aguirre, manager of Hotel Carretera, the airport closure caused a drop of 80 to 90 percent in tourism from the period of when the emissions started in late May until June 1. Since June 3 the situation has reportedly improved as corporate tourists have been traveling to the region via Pereira, another city in the region less affected by the emissions, added the hotel manager.
Zapata says solutions are needed quickly, as Manizales is scheduled to host several congressional meetings in coming months.
Besides causing troubles for the hotel sector, the active volcano is also affecting those in the transportation sector, such as taxi drivers and porters who worked at the airport, local media reported. Milk production in the area has also fallen by 30 percent, as cattle refuse to eat in ash-covered pasture, local media reported.
“The animals have problems in the mouth and do not like the grass because it is filthy and has a different flavor,” explained Victor Manuel Jarmillo of Livestock Palestina, a major livestock equipment provider.
For now, the local direction of Cotelco, an association of hotels and tourism in Colombia, is focusing its attention on assuring the rest of the country that the city is functioning as normal despite the volcano’s activity and that all necessary precautions have been taken.
Earlier this month the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Manizales released a handbook for residents on how to deal with ongoing ash emissions. The document, compiled by experts at England’s University of Cambridge and the U.S. Geological Survey, provided recommendations on the ash management, including wearing protective masks and avoiding the use of water to remove volcanic material.
An estimated 25,000 people were killed when the volcano erupted in 1985.