Eruption underway at Nicaragua’s San Cristobal volcano

September 7th, 2009 - 10:49 am ICT by BNO News  

CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua (BNO NEWS) — Fresh activity has been recorded at Nicaragua’s highest volcano, according to the U.S. Volcanic Ash Advisory Center on Sunday, saying an eruption is underway.

The San Cristobal Volcano is located near the towns of Chichigalpa and Chinandega, which have a combined population of more than 333,000. “We have received information suggesting a possible VA (Volcanic Ash) emission,” said an initial statement from the U.S. Volcanic Ash Advisory Center at around 7 p.m. EDT.

A second advisory from the center, around 7.20 p.m. EDT, confirmed an eruption was underway and said an explosion was recorded at 8.15 p.m. GMT (3.15 p.m. EDT).

The ash is currently moving towards the west at or below a height of 5 miles, according to the agency. “Ash [is] moving to the west and west-northwest at 10-15 kts (11.5 - 17.2 miles) and extends about 40 nautical miles (46 miles) west of the volcano,” the advisory read.

Local media in the area reported that a “giant plume of smoke” was seen around the volcano, and that seven smaller explosions followed the large explosion at 8.15 p.m. GMT (3.15 p.m. EDT).

A statement from the Nicaraguense de Estudios Territoriales (Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies) said that the activity indicates that magma is moving inside the volcano, and said that it will continue to investigate further changes. It also urged people to be prepared for a possible announcement from the Civil Guard in the coming hours, according to a local newspaper, but it did not say if evacuations could be required.

“Eruptions like this are very common, like every 5 years or so,” said Silvio Tercero, who lives in the city of León. “The ash cloud is headed to the ocean and the city of León, which is where I live, is not affected,” he said. “But it seems like Chichigalpa, a little town of Chinandega, might get some ash.”

Tercero described the eruption as “normal size,” while adding there is no cause for concern. He further described the ash cloud as “really white and dense,” at a height of about 1 to 2 miles.

The San Cristobal is one of the more active volcanoes in the country, but eruptions are usually small. Its last small eruption was reported in 2006, but a larger eruption occurred in 1999.

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