Description of the Disaster The Chaparrastique volcano started registering increased seismic activity at 6:30 am on December 29, 2013. Later on that same day, at 10:30 am, its eruption started, spewing a column of ash that rose more than 5 km above the volcano. Local communities and leaders immediately began evacuation actions. Authorities of the National Civil Protection System (Dirección Nacional del Protección Civil) declared an Orange Alert for the department of San Miguel and a Yellow Alert across the country. A total of 420,344 people live around the volcano.
After the eruption, falling ash affected the population living on the volcano's western side, especially the municipalities of Chinameca, San Jorge, San Rafael Oriente, and El Tránsito, home to an estimated 63,079 people. Of these, 2,300 people were relocated to 16 collective centers set up by the authorities while an unknown number moved to homes of relatives living in safe areas.
According to reports from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), the plume of gases show fluctuations which are mainly attributed to changes in weather conditions. On December 29 emissions averaged 637 tons of sulfur dioxide, and reached 1,244 tons on 30 December, 2,200 tons on 31 December, and 1,740 tons on 1 January 2014. Currently, ash and gas emissions continue, and authorities will consider it a risk situation until sulfur dioxide emissions show a significant and sustained decrease.
In its gaseous form, sulfur dioxide is harmful to people. The health hazards relate to the respiratory system and eye, throat and respiratory tract irritations. It can also precipitate as acid rain, causing damage to people's skin, agriculture, vegetation as well as to land and aquatic animals.
The National Civil Protection System's Scientific Technical Commission states that a magmatic component was involved in the volcano's eruption and considered that should another eruptive episode occur, the most probable scenario would involve an eruption with flying incandescent rocks in the crater's vicinity; however, activity in lateral fissures has not been ruled out. There is an ongoing risk to the population travelling or living in the volcano’s surrounding area.
Summary of current responseIn view of Chaparrastique's eruption in the Department of San Miguel, the Salvadoran Red Cross responded immediately by deploying 200 volunteers to the affected area to assist with the evacuation to collective centers and provide pre hospital care with support of six ambulances. Additionally, two water trucks were dispatched to distribute drinking water to 16 collective centers housing 2,300 people.
At the moment, the Salvadoran Red Cross continues monitoring the affected communities through its Emergency Operations Center, and coordinating the following actions: 1- Distribution of 300 hygiene kits in 5 collective centers in the department of San Miguel
2- Provision of pre hospital care in collective centers in San Jorge municipality, department of San Miguel, with 2 ambulances, 2 pick-up trucks and 1 truck.
3- Permanent activation of San Miguel and Usulután Red Cross branches.
4- Deployment of medical personnel to the municipality of San Jorge to provide medical care and psychosocial support to people in collective centers and to response teams deployed in the area
5- Response teams were deployed to support the evacuation ordered on 31 December.
Most of the population affected by ash emissions lives in the municipalities of Chinameca, San Jorge, El Transito, and San Rafael Oriente, department of San Miguel.
The Salvadoran Red Cross has extensive experience in disaster management during emergencies such as volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and floods. It has a network of 60 branches distributed across the country and is supported by more than 2,400 volunteers, many of whom are trained in emergency and disaster preparedness and response. It has a large central warehouse as well as a vehicle fleet, which although limited, allows for responding quickly to emergencies and disasters anywhere in the country. Likewise, it has a stock of relief items to provide immediate response during emergencies, which has been used during this event.