BOGOTA -- At least 10 Indians died, another 10 were injured and several are missing or trapped after the eruption of the Nevado del Huila volcano Thursday night, government officials confirmed Saturday.
Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio told reporters that the first report of the eruption said that "10 people died" and that it has been impossible to establish "whether there have been other tragic events."
The official said that the natural phenomenon chiefly affected the indigenous reservations located between the municipalities of Inza and Balalcazar.
The authorities have been unable to reach the highest parts of the volcano - located 285 kilometers (177 miles) southwest of Bogota - because bad weather has kept helicopters carrying supplies out of the area and the roads were obliterated by avalanches that occurred at the time of Thursday night's eruption.
Marco Tulio Tocono, the Indian governor of the Talaga reservation, the closest to the crater, reported two people dead and two children of the community missing after the Paez River avalanches.
"The situation is pretty serious because we've been left practically on an island and I have confirmation that two people have been killed," the Indian leader said on Caracol Radio.
Meanwhile the governor of the nearby Huila reservation, Jair Cuspian, reported the disappearance of eight people, but rescue workers have not been able to reach the area because of the bad weather and destruction of the roads.
The coordinator of the Colombian Red Cross in the neighboring municipality of Inza, Orlando Marulanda, said that news had come in from the Indians of the area that there have been several victims in the highest altitudes of Belalcazar, but travel to the area is impossible.
"The situation is really uncertain. We have news that there are victims and we've tried to make contact with the rescue organizations from Paez but there is no concrete information because they have not been able enter the area due to the bad weather," he said.
Civil authorities in the region have also said that some 150 people are trapped in the upper part of the canyon of a river and they too cannot yet be evacuated because of the bad weather.
For her part, the director of the disaster emergency office, Luz Amando Pulido, said that one of the biggest problems pending in the catastrophe area is getting the electricity working again.
"It's become a big problem for emergency responders and their communications because their cell-phone and radio batteries already need recharging," she said.
The eruption of the Nevado del Huila volcano on Thursday night formed a crater approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet) in diameter on one of the peaks of this mountain range in southwestern Colombia.
The volcano is located in the central Andean range of Colombia, in a region where the provinces of Huila, Tolima and Cauca come together.
The Bellavista stream, a tributary of the Paez River, was covered by the avalanche sparked by the interaction of the emerging hot lava with the layer of glacial ice. EFE