Three low intensity earthquakes were reported Friday by the Colombian Geological Institute – Ingeominas – near Galeras volcano in the southwestern department of Nariño. The 2.7 to 3.0 on the Richter scale quakes occurred just days after a 4.5 magnitude quake struck the same region, killing two people and destroying homes and rural roads at the base of the country’s most active volcano.
Friday’s tremors and the June 12 earthquake have authorities in the departmental capital of Pasto on high alert given a rash of volcanic activity around the world in recent weeks. Home to half a million inhabitants, Pasto, is located just 9 kilometers east of Galeras, and within the volcano’s direct zone of influence.
After Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began spewing molten lava more than 40 days ago and the sudden eruption on June 3 of Guatemala’s towering Volcán de Fuego, that buried towns in hot ash and resulted in the deaths of at least 110 people, Galeras has the capacity to unleash devastating plumes of gas and molten rock. According to Ingeominas, Galeras remains on a level III (Yellow) alert. The Geological institute is also closely monitoring seismic activity along Colombia’s “volcanic belt” in the Central Cordillera, that includes three other stratosphere volcanoes – Nevado del Ruíz, Nevado del Tolima and Nevado del Huila.
According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program (GVP) that documents the Earth’s volcanoes and their eruptive history, there are 1,555 volcanoes in the world, 37 of which are located in Colombia. The most devastating eruption of a volcano in Colombia occurred on November 13, 1985, after the Nevado del Ruíz unleashed a pyroclastic mud and lava flow from its snow-capped crater, obliterating the town of Armero in the department of Tolima. An estimated 22,500 people were killed in the tragedy.
On Friday, the mayor Pasto sent out a tweet alerting residents to heed the official announcements from Ingeominas, governor’s office of Nariño and mayoralty, regarding a possible change in the alert status of Galeras.