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Volcano that once killed at least 25,000 people is feared to erupt again

Colombian authorities have warned a volcano that killed at least 25,000 people several decades could soon erupt again.

The Nevado del Ruiz volcano, about 129km west of Bogotá, has seen a few minor eruptions occur over the last 10 years, but nothing on the scale of the country's most deadly natural disaster in 1985.

The heat from the eruption melted snow on the volcano's peak, creating a mudslide that covered almost the entire town of Armero, home to around 30,000 people.

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On March 24 of this year, Colombia's Geological Service (SGC) spotted the volcano's seismic activity had increased.

Since then, geologists working for the organisation have recorded thousands of tremors every day.

In response, the SGC has raised the volcano's alert level from yellow to orange, meaning an eruption bigger than any of those from the last 10 years could happen any day now.

About 40 families have now been evacuated from the area and the nearby Los Nevados natural park has been closed to families as the autorities prepares for an imminent explosion.

The SGC's last update came yesterday (April 10) which said seismic activity is still happening in the southwestern sector of the volcano.

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In a tweet, the organisation said: "It is not possible to know precisely what an eruption of El Ruiz would be like, but if it is greater than those of the last 10 years, pyroclastic flows, lahars or mudflows would be expected mainly, which would affect the rivers that originate in this volcano, and ash fall.

"Since this morning this seismicity has increased and is associated with the emission of continuous ash, confirmed through the cameras used in the monitoring and by reports of inhabitants of the La Cabaña village sector."

The geological service added that activity associated with rock fracturing had decreased over the last few days, but that "there are other parameters that show that the activity of the volcano Nevado del Ruiz is still very unstable."

"In the event of an acceleration of processes that suggest an imminent eruption or the eruption itself, the [threat level] will turn red," the update continued.

The SGC also urged locals to remain "calm" and to follow instructions from authorities as they continue to assess the situation.

This is the first time the alert level has been raised to orange since 2012.

It stayed at that level before being increased to red for two days – but in the end, no major eruption took place.

But it was a different story in 1985.

On November 13, after 69 years of the volcano lying dormant, the volcano erupted, sending four lahars – meaning mudflows, landslides or debris flows – racing down its slopes.

More than 20,000 residents of Armero were killed, along with several thousand from surrounding towns.

At the time the Colombian government came under fire for not listening to geologists, who predicted the incident and urged officials to evacuate the area.

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