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Nicaragua Volcano’s Torrent Ends Evacuees Ponder Return, But Some Lost Nearly Everything

The Cerro Negro volcano suddenly stopped rumbling on Sunday after two weeks of spewing ash and rock, leaving 2,000 evacuees wondering if it was safe to go home.

In a bulletin Sunday morning, the Nicaraguan Institute of Earth Studies said the volcano’s “violent phase” ended Saturday and that it was sporadically emitting only a few ashes.

The quieting of the volcano was cause for celebration in nearby Leon, where thousands swept the streets in preparation for the community’s annual fiesta in honor of the Virgin Mary.

But the mood was less jubilant in Malpaisillo, where about half of all the evacuees fled when the volcano, after remaining inactive for three years, began erupting on Nov. 19.

Hundreds of people have been living in a primary school without electricity and sleeping in the same clothes they wore when they fled their homes.

“We can’t go back because we have already lost everything and we’re not sure if the volcano has stopped its activity,” said Justo Granera, 27, who left his home in nearby Los Caleros on Wednesday.

For days, the 2,200-foot volcano tossed ash and lava 1,000 yards into the air in eruptions visible in the capital Managua, 75 miles to the southeast.

About 6,000 people live around the volcano, which dumped gray flakes over a 30-mile radius, including the cities of Leon and Corinto, which have a total of 200,000 residents between them.

Granera brought his wife and three daughters here after buckets of wet ash began raining on their home at the foot of the volcano, toppling trees that blocked roads leading out of the area. They carried out just a few of their belongings in an ox cart.

“I lost my bean crops and the house must have been crushed by the weight of the ashes,” he said.

The volcano destroyed at least 5,000 surrounding acres of sugar cane, cotton, yucca and other crops. Officials evacuated more than a thousand people, and another thousand left voluntarily.