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Eruption of volcano in Nicaragua forces evacuation of 3,000

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- The San Cristobal volcano in Nicaragua rumbled to life Saturday with three explosions, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 residents, authorities said.

Television footage showed a column of smoke and ash rising from the cone of the volcano, Nicaragua's tallest at 1,745 meters (5,725 feet), in the northeast.

The civil defense agency said it readied 50 trucks and 350 troops to support the population in case of greater emergency, while the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, or INETER, added they expect “more gas emissions and sporadic explosions.”

There are some hamlets perched on the slopes of the volcano, and winds could push the fumes from the eruption there, said the director of the national disaster prevention and mitigation agency, William Gonzalez.

He said authorities ordered some 3,000 people living in villages in that zone to evacuate.

Ashes fell on the towns of El Viejo, El Chonco, Villa 15 de Julio and Rancheria, according to a statement by INETER, which monitors volcanic activity.

San Cristobal, located 135 kilometers (83 miles) northwest of Managua, is one of the country's most active volcanoes.

Since Thursday, when an earthquake of 7.6-magnitude rocked neighboring Costa Rica and was also felt in Nicaragua, INETER began surveillance at several active volcanoes, fearing the powerful quake would have an “impact on the activation” on the volcanoes.

Rosario Murillo, the first lady and government spokeswoman, said some U.S. experts have noted that the ash plume reaches 5,000 meters, which could be an indicator of potential for greater activity.

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