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Nicaragua volcano belches ash cloud, residents evacuated

Esteban Felix / AP

A Nicaraguan soldier wears a protective mask as the San Cristobal volcano, in background, spews smoke and ash, near Chinandega, Nicaragua, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.

MANAGUA -- Nicaragua's tallest volcano belched an ash cloud nearly a mile into the atmosphere on Saturday, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents who heard explosions emanating from its crater.

The 5,725-foot San Cristobal volcano, which sits around 95 miles north of the capital Managua in the country's northwest, has been active in recent years, and stirred in mid-2008, when it expelled gas and rumbled with a series of small eruptions.

Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said authorities were still assessing the strength of the volcanic activity. Nearby residents were being evacuated. He said as many as 20,000 people could ultimately be affected by the gas and ash from the volcano.

In 2009, the volcano let off a series of explosions, spewing gases on nearby towns.  

Reuters contributed to this report.

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