Some people living near Colombian volcano are loath to evacuate

By - Reuters

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's government is trying to speed up the evacuation of some 2,500 families living closest to the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, which is being monitored for a possible eruption, but some residents are refusing to leave.

The volcano's eruption in 1985 killed more than 25,000 people in Colombia's biggest-ever natural disaster, with avalanches of earth and rock fragments burying entire settlements.

The government has raised the volcano's alert level to orange, following a surge in seismic activity that suggests a heightened chance of an eruption in the coming days or weeks, and begun some preventative evacuations.

President Gustavo Petro has asked for evacuations to move more quickly and disaster officials have said livestock - critical to many livelihoods in the rural area - may be moved as well, or farmers will be allowed to return during the day to care for them.

But some residents, including families who survived the devastating 1985 eruption by the Nevado del Ruiz, which straddles the border between Tolima and Caldas provinces, say they will not go.

"It doesn't scare me because it already exploded," said Evelio Ortiz, a potato farmer who survived the 1985 eruption with his wife and five children. "What was going to erode eroded."

Some 57,000 people live in the volcano's hazard zone, which is spread across parts of six provinces, according to the national disaster management agency.

The preventative evacuations are necessary because poor communication infrastructure may make it difficult to contact those living closest to the volcano in the event of an imminent eruption, authorities have said.

The 1985 tragedy is the fourth-deadliest volcanic eruption in human history, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

The Nevado del Ruiz is a stratovolcano or composite volcano. (This story has been refiled to correct typographical error in headline)

(Reporting by Andres Camilo Valencia; Writing by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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