Volcanic activity prompts 'maximum alert' in Nicaragua
MALPAISILLO, Nicaragua (AP) -- In the face of a new eruption,
Nicaragua's government declared a "maximum alert" Friday for towns
near the Cerro Negro Volcano and evacuated families frightened by
earthquakes and spurts of ash and glowing rocks.
Lava and ash spewed from three new openings at the volcano, 70 kms
(44 miles) northwest of Managua, Thursday night though activity had abated
Some 500 people were evacuated Friday from towns on the volcano's
slopes, Maj. Alberto Narvaez of the Civil Defense said. They were being
taken to schools and health centers in the towns of Malpaisillo, Telica and
Some 1,220 people were evacuated Thursday when the volcano emitted a
rain of fine ash over the residents' humble huts and fields, Civil Defense Lt.
Carlos Caceres said.
Families fled their towns on ox-drawn carts carrying their rustic furniture
well as dogs and chickens.
"We're going because we're scared," Leoncio Aburto said Thursday upon
arriving at one of the seven refugee centers set up in Malpaisillo, 10 kms (six
miles)northeast of the volcano. "The volcano made a horrible noise and if it
blows up, God help us."
Leading his cart, Aburto was followed by his wife and five small children
who covered their heads with sheets to protect them from the rain of black
The government declared the "maximum alert" on the recommendation of the
Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, which sent experts to the Cerro
Negro to study its status.
The institute said more than 200 volcanic earthquakes have been
recorded in the area in the last three days, the stronger ones sending
residents running from their homes.
President Arnoldo Aleman visited the region Thursday afternoon and
named his vice president, Enrique Bolaños as head of an emergency
"We trust in God that a tragedy will not occur. But everything is ready
to deal with any type of situation," Aleman said before leaving Friday for
Miami, where he was to celebrate his engagement to wed.
An estimated 1,700 people live on the volcano's flanks, many of them
farmers who are reluctant to evacuate because they do not want to leave
behind livestock and crops.
The Cerro Negro, some 900 meters (2,953 feet) high, made its first eruption
in 1867 and has had two more this decade, in 1992 and 1995. It forms part
of a chain of nearly 20 volcanoes known as the Marrabios or Maribios,
which crosses from southeastern Nicaragua to the northwest.
Last October, Hurricane Mitch caused a lake atop the Casitas Volcano to
burst open, killing more than 2,000 people near the city of Posoltega.