Avalanches from volcano eruption kill four in Colombia

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Bogota_(dpa) _ Avalanches and mudslides killed at least four people and left three missing after the eruption this week of the Nevado del Huila volcano in south-western Colombia, local leaders said.

Marco Tuilio Tocomas, governor of the indigenous zone of Caloto-Vila, said Friday that four bodies were found near the community and they appeared to have been dragged by avalanches.

National authorities had not yet confirmed any deaths from an avalanche over the Paez River, which witnesses said covered a swath up to 200 metres wide and took everything in its path.

The snow-covered, 5,364-metre volcano erupted Thursday night, prompting a red alert and orders to evacuate nearby areas. Regional authorities said about 13,000 people had been relocated.

Reporters at the scene said at least eight bridges were wiped out, cutting off communication with the municipalities of Belalcazar and Nataga in the departments of Cauca and Nataga.

The state geological agency Ingeominas said the US Volcanic Ash Advisories Center reported two columns of gases and ash reaching up to 10,000 meters above the crater.

Nevado del Huila is the highest peak in Colombia's central Andean range. It began erupting in February 2007 in its most recent cycle of activity.

Other volcanoes have also increased their activity in recent days, including Galeras in the south-western department of Narino and Machin in the west-central Tolima department.

More than 60 people fled the zone near the Machin volcano on November 9 because of increasing tremors. dpa fp/rr ei tl ls

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