Thousands evacuated as El Salvador volcano spews ashes

The Chaparrastique volcano spews ash in the municipality of San Miguel on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013. Some 2,000 people were evacuated in eastern El Salvador on Sunday when the Chaparrastique volcano belched and spewed a column of ashes high into the
The Chaparrastique volcano spews ash in the municipality of San Miguel on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013. Some 2,000 people were evacuated in eastern El Salvador on Sunday when the Chaparrastique volcano belched and spewed a column of ashes high into the sky. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN SALVADOR (AFP) - Some 2,000 people were evacuated in eastern El Salvador on Sunday when the Chaparrastique volcano belched and spewed a column of ashes high into the sky.

The 2,330-metre high volcano began erupting around 1630 GMT (12.30am Monday Singapore time), and authorities suspended scores of flights across parts of the small Central American country. No victims were reported.

The volcano belched for about 2.5 hours, the environmental ministry said.

President Mauricio Funes late Sunday took to the airwaves to tell his nation that, while the eruptions seemed to have ceased, there could be more volcanic activity in the next days.

The eruption produced a dense column of gas and ashes that rose more than 5,000 metres into the air. Debris from the blast was spread in a radius of up to 10 kilometres from the volcano, he said.

The eruption "has not caused victims or serious damage," Funes said.

Civil Defense chief Jorge Melendez warned that wind could carry smoke and ash from the Chaparrastique to Tegucigalpa, the capital of neighboring Honduras.

The Chaparrastique is the most active of El Salvador's 23 volcanoes, though it has not had a major eruption since 1976, local officials said.

El Salvador is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, and has historically been affected by earthquakes.