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Killer Colombian Volcano Spews Smoke; Alert Called

From Associated Press

Nevado del Ruiz, the volcano that wiped out a valley and 23,000 people in 1985, spouted steam and ashes Friday but then grew calm, an official said. People living nearby were evacuated.

“Volcanic activity has decreased significantly,” said Camilo Cardenas, head of President Virgilio Barco Vargas’ emergency committee.

A plume of smoke that was five miles high earlier in the day was down to half a mile by 12:30 p.m., and “so far there hasn’t been any indication of avalanches,” he said.

Nevado del Ruiz erupted Nov. 13, 1985, melting parts of its icecap. Boulders, trees and mud dammed a river, and when the barrier broke, a wall of mud 150 feet high swept down the valley onto the sleeping town of Armero.

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Cardenas said the “red alert” in effect around the volcano, in the Andes 80 miles west of Bogota, might be reduced to a less serious “orange alert.”

The 17,000-foot volcano began spewing ash and smoke shortly after midnight, officials said. The emergency office in Manizales, a city of 300,000 about 15 miles away, said 2,500 people would have to be moved away from rivers that might flood.

Airplane flights were diverted from the volcano and highway traffic in the region was restricted to emergency vehicles.


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