Colombia: Volcano DREF Operation No. MDRCO003 Final Report


The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster responsesystem andincreases theabilityof nationalsocieties torespond todisasters.

Summary: CHF 103,000 (USD 105,060 or EUR 65,438) was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 18 April 2008 to support the Colombian Red Cross Society in delivering assistance to over 2,250 families.

On 29 March, 2008 the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining (Instituto Colombiano de Geologia y Minenia - INGEOMINAS) issued an orange alert due to the increased volcanic activity of the Nevado del Huila volcano.

The Colombian Red Cross Society (CRCS) worked arduously with local authorities carrying out evacuation activities, preliminary damage and needs assessments and humanitarian relief activities. This final report will detail all activities accomplished with the DREF funds.

The situation

The Nevado del Huila volcano is located between the departments of Cauca, Huila and Tolima, approximately 285 km. south-west of the capital city of Santa Fe de Bogota. In early 2008, INGEOMINAS reported that the Nevado del Huila volcano had doubled its volcanic activity compared to the previous year, and thatitsincreasedlevel of activity was putting at risk approximately 30,000 people.

On 19 February 2008, the volcano started an eruptive process. The National System of Prevention and Attention to Disasters (Sistema Nacional de Prevención y Atención de Desastres - SNPAD) activated the contingency plans in the municipalities of Paez and Inza located in the departments of Cauca and La Plata, as well as the municipalities of Nataga, Paigol andTesalia in the department of Huila.

On 14 April 2008, an imminent eruption alert was issued by INGEOMINAS for the municipality of Paez in order to evacuate those people living in high risk areas. Authorities began to evacuate people with disabilities and those with chronic illnesses in the municipality of Belalcázar. The local Committee for the Prevention and Attention to Disasters in the Cauca Department reported that a total of 3,523 people were evacuated from urban areas and 10,678 people from rural areas.

Temporary shelters were opened to house the evacuees. No injuries due to the emergency were reported. However, the common shelters available were insufficient and inadequate common to house the affected people. Lack of medical supplies and drinking water was also reported in Belalcázar. In addition, the heavy rains and landslides affected and partially obstructed evacuation routes.

Consequently, local authorities carried out the procurement of construction materials in order to build shelters and provide adequate signs or billboards showing the safest evacuation routes. This activity was coordinated by the different presidents of the local communities with local authorities. It benefitted approximately 14,201 people in the municipality of Belalcázar (3,523 people in 11 urban communities and 10,678 people in 9 indigenous communities).

Additional preventive actions taken by the local authorities were the implementation of a radio communication network for the municipalities located by the Rio Paez's basin. Sirens were installed in some key sectors and contingency plans were updated. Simulations and drills were practiced and preventive measures were revised by the local authorities in case the emergency worsened.

All response systems were activated and initial assessments were also completed. The affected people requiring medical attention were transported to the local hospital and tarpaulins were installed to shelter volunteers.