The Nevado del Ruiz volcano in central Colombia is likely to erupt “within days or weeks,” RCN Radio reported Wednesday.
The Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Manizales has been monitoring the volcano very closely and now believe the volcano’s eruption is probable.
Colombian disaster authorities raised the disaster risk level from yellow to orange following an earthquake Tuesday morning that resulted in large ash emissions, affecting numerous areas surrounding the volcano. An orange alert signifies an eruption is likely to happen but not necessarily imminent.
Emergency preparations are underway to prevent a disaster similar to the one which occurred after the volcano’s 1985 eruption, in which an estimated 25,000 people were killed in the town of Armero.
The Red Cross has already evacuated at least 500 people from the areas of Rio Claro and Playon in the department of Antioquia, as well as settlements near the town of Villa Maria in the department of Caldas, regions both affected by the volcanic ash emissions.
The cities of La Pintada and Carmanta and the waterways of the Chinchina river, also in Antioqua have all been put on orange alert.
The National Emergencies System and the Geological Survey of Colombia have set up a “Situation Room” to handle the implementation of emergency services.
The director of the National Recovery Center, Colonel Jorge Luis Suarez, assured the press that the agency was ready to respond with crews, doctors, paramedics and air command units.
In response to the high presence of ash, the Civil Aeronautics Agency (Aerocivil) have suspended air traffic in Pereira, Cartago, Armenia, and Manizales, although the Colombian air force will continue to monitor the volcano with overhead flights.
Director of the System for Prevention, Care and Disaster Recovery Cesar Augusto Hernandez suggested people in the affected areas use masks, goggles or tissues to protect their eyes and prevent respiratory damage from ash inhalation. He also advised people to covered water sources and recommended farmers not let ash linger on crops.