An El Salvador volcano erupted on Sunday, spewing hot ash three miles into the air and creating an enormous gas plume. The Chaparrastique volcano, El Salvador’s most active lava mountain, has not had a significant eruption since 1976, though the volcano has frequent smaller upsurges, reports CBS News on Dec. 29.
The country’s Civil Defense Director, Jorge Melendez, issued a “yellow alert” for residents, and said those near the volcano should be watchful for potential lava flow. Thus far, investigators have not detected any fresh lava.
"We have implemented emergency measures to evacuate villages located within 3 kilometers of the volcano," Melendez said. Approximately 5,000 inhabitants live within the “blast zone” of the volcano.
Some of the inhabitants have been reluctant to leave their homes, despite the warnings and concerns over air quality and the drinking water.
"One has to leave for one's own safety," Melendez stressed.
Assistant Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said some have been treated for respiratory problems but thus far, no serious injuries had been reported.
"We are providing assistance to people evacuating, and we are asking them to protect themselves against the gases, which can affect the respiratory tract," Espinoza said, adding that inhabitants near the volcano should avoid drinking water from local sources.
The 7,000 foot volcano spewed ash over a wide area and the smell of sulfur remains pungent in the air, according to local news outlets. Authorities have recommended breathing through moist handkerchiefs if residents have to go outdoors.