Major Volcanic Eruption Endangers Thousands in Colombia

A volcano in southwestern Colombia spewed ash Friday after a violent eruption, while authorities fought to persuade thousands of living in the mountain's shadow to evacuate.

No damages or injuries were reported in the eruption of the 14,110-foot Galeras volcano, which began at 8:06 p.m. Thursday.

Although authorities ordered the 8,000 residents of the two towns nearest the volcano evacuated, few people abandoned their homes, fearing theft, the mayor of the nearby city of Pasto, Eduardo Alvarado, told The Associated Press.

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"We ordered the evacuation of all the peasant population that lives near the volcano," Alvarado said, adding that only about 100 people had heeded the order.

Pasto is home to about a half million people and seismologists watching the eruption said the state capital, near the Ecuador border, did not appear to be in danger.

The director of Colombia's Seismological Network, Fernando Gil, said it was the most the most serious Galeras eruption since the volcano reactivated in 1989.

A 1993 eruption of the volcano killed nine people, including five scientists who had descended into the crater to sample gases. In November 2005, the volcano spewed ash that fell about 30 miles away.