Mother Nature is dealing a double blow to El Salvador. The region around the Ilamatepec volcano near Santa Ana in the western part of the country remains under a red alert because of the threat of further volcanic activity. Meanwhile, the government has place all of the country under an orange alert because of heavy rains, threatening to bring more flooding and landslides to San Salvador and elsewhere.
The government has cancelled school classes throughout the country as a preventive measure. Heavy rains in past weeks have left the ground completely saturated and rivers were already at very high levels. Mudslides caused by heavy rains killed at least four people in the past two weeks in the country.
El Salvador's tallest volcano, Ilamatepec erupted at 8:04 a.m. on Saturday morning. The volcano's last eruption was in 1904, but there had been an increase in seismic activity at the volcano since July of this year. The eruption was marked by glowing rocks being blown as far as a mile from the crater. Smoke billowed kilometers into the air. Photos from the area showed a landscape covered in ash. Witnesses described glowing rocks raining down on small fincas, and photos showed some dwellings burned to the ground.
Earlier this week I had written about concerns over the evacuation plans of the government, and how some communities had simply left despite government assurances that an eruption was not imminent. One of those communities, Canton Palo Campana, was in close proximity to Saturday's eruption. The two fatalities from the volcano, farm workers buried under boiling mud coming down the slopes from above them, were residents of this community.
There are varying reports of the level of help being provided by the government to those fleeing the volcano. Diario CoLatino has a story of shelters housing evacuees in need of supplies and support. Other reports have photos of tent cities set up by the authorities and persons being cared for. In all, approximately 6000 are reported to be in shelters in the area.
The same Diario CoLatino story includes an interview with a woman who had spent the night in a shelter which did not have a bed for her:
She and her husband are tenants of Finca Macarena, property of the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, Hugo Barrera. The woman said that her boss assured her that where would not be any danger of remaining in that place. Because of that, they were not very worried. If they would have known what would happen, she said, they would have left their house earlier.Multimedia links with scenes from the eruption of Ilamatepec:
"A woman said to him that today there would be an eruption, but he said that nothing would happen, there is no danger, and because of that we had not left. I though I was going to die of fear," she proclaimed.