BOGOTA (Dow Jones)–Colombia warned Tuesday of a possible eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano after it began rumbling and spewing gas, sending ashes onto cities and towns in the nearby coffee-growing region.
The government’s geology and mining oversight institute Ingeominas said in a statement it raised the warning level to orange from yellow, which means an eruption is possible in days or weeks. The increased seismic activity began at around 3 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EDT).
Civil aviation authority Aerocivil said operations have been suspended at the Manizales, Armenia, Cartago and Pereira airports, all in Colombia’s central-western coffee-growing region, due to visibility problems and concerns over aircraft engines getting clogged.
This is the second time this year the warning level has been set at orange. It was raised to orange March 31, but brought back to yellow several days later as seismic activity declined.
The 17,800-foot volcano, located west of Bogota, hasn’t erupted since the 1980s.
An official at the Volcanology Observatory in Manizales, 16 miles northwest of the crater, said the city’s 360,000 residents have been able to see ash falling on the city since before dawn.
In 1985, an eruption caused hot volcanic flows to melt the ice- and snow-covered summit area. This unleashed a cascade of debris down the volcano’s eastern slope, which wiped the town of Armero off the map, killing 25,000 people. Another 2,000 people were killed in nearby areas.