Authorities on Tuesday began evacuating 7,500 people living on the slopes of a volcano in southwest Colombia over concerns it is about to erupt.
Following a mandatory evacuation order Monday, emergency officials began knocking on the doors of the poor farmers who live in the high-risk area of the Galeras volcano, near the Ecuador border 540 kilometers (335 miles) southwest of Bogota, said Roberto Torres, a geologist at Colombia's Geology and Mines Institute.
Three weeks ago the institute raised its warning for Galeras to Level 2, signifying "a probable eruption within days or weeks," Torres said. Although the warning remains at Level 2, Torres said government officials ordered the evacuation as a precaution.
"We can't wait until it occurs before taking action," said Interior and Justice Minister Sabas Pretelt.
The government says it is providing shelter and food to all evacuees. Many schools in the area were closed and workers told to abandon their jobs indefinitely.
The recent seismic activity at Galeras has resembled that observed prior to a 1993 eruption that killed nine people, including five scientists from around the globe who had descended into the crater to sample gases at the moment the volcano blew, the institute said.
The evacuation order comes one day after Colombians commemorated the 20th anniversary of the eruption of another volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, which melted ice and snow and triggered a mudslide that buried a town, killing 25,000 people, AP reported. V.A.