August 31, 2005

Volcano Activity Puts El Salvador on Alert

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) - Salvadoran authorities activated emergency plans Tuesday as a western volcano continued to spew gas and vapor in what experts said was a "significant increase" in activity.

The renewed energy was first detected on Saturday, when experts from the National Service of Earth Studies witnessed 17 small earthquakes around the Ilamatepec volcano, said agency director Antonio Arenas.

On Monday, scientists began to observe incandescent rocks in a 2,150-square-foot area near where columns of gas and vapor reached to 3,280 feet, Arenas said.

"The volcano is showing a significant increase in activity, both in the number of seismic events as well as in the amount of energy being liberated," said Salvadoran Interior Minister Rene Figueroa.

Figueroa said all emergency agencies were on alert, both keeping people informed and preparing for the evacuation of 20,000 people who live nearby if the activity increases even more.

Ilamatepec is located in a coffee-growing region of El Salvador about 40 miles west of San Salvador, the capital.