Nicaragua volcano belches ash cloud, residents evacuated (Photo : Flickr )
Nicaragua's tallest volcano belched an ash plume up to 2 1/2 miles into the atmosphere on Saturday, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents who heard eruptions emanating from its crater.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, authorities said.
The 5,725-foot (1,745-meter) San Cristobal volcano, located about 95 miles north of the capital Managua in the country's volcano-dotted northwest, has been active in recent years, and stirred in mid-2008, when it expelled gas and rumbled with a series of small eruptions.
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The government expects to evacuate about 3,000 people from around San Cristobal, though numerous families already have done so on their own, said Guillermo Gonzalez, who heads Sinapred, a government emergency and disaster relief agency.
"We already have nearly the entire apparatus underway," Gonzalez said. "A response plan exists for volcano eruptions and every community has clearly defined places for people to go to once they are evacuated," he said.
A gas and ash plume stretched between 2 and 2 1/2 miles into the atmosphere, Gonzalez said.
The Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, which monitors the country's volcanoes, said in a preliminary report that "more gas emissions and sporadic explosions" could be expected from San Cristobal.
The volcano is one of the most active along Nicaragua's Pacific coast, according to the institute, and often averages nearly 100 daily seismic movements.
Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo earlier said authorities were still assessing the strength of the volcanic activity. As many as 20,000 people could ultimately be affected, she said.