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El Salvador's Chaparrastique Volcano Erupts Near San Miguel [VIDEO]

Dec 30, 2013 01:40 PM EST

El Salvador's San Miguel volcano - also known as Chaparrastique - erupted unexpectedly Sunday morning, prompting the evacuation of villages within a 3 kilometer range of the summit as gas and ash shot about 5 kilometers in the air.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate and airlines canceled dozens of flights into and out of the country.

It was the first time Chaparrastique erupted in 37 years. There have been no reports of serious injuries or damage. Two people were reportedly treated at a local hospital for respiratory problems apparently linked to the volcanic eruption.

"We are providing assistance to people evacuating, and we are asking them to protect themselves against the gases, which can affect the respiratory tract," Assistant Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said, according to The Associated Press.

The volcano, a 7,025-foot (2,129-meter) stratovolcano, is located about 15 kilometers southwest of the city of San Miguel, one of the largest cities in El Salvador. The eruption occurred about 145 kilometers east of San Salvador, the nation's capital.

El Salvador's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources reported the eruption began Sunday at 10:30 a.m., according to a CNN report.

"We are not certain there will be new eruptions, but we can't rule out that possibility either," President Mauricio Funes said in a televised address.

The last significant eruption of Chaparrastique was in 1976. published an impressive photo of the eruption here

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