PASTO, Colombia - Colombia's Galeras Volcano erupted Wednesday, forcing authorities to order the evacuation of thousands, but only a few residents trickled from nearby villages to shelters, officials said.

Seated in Colombia's Andes near the frontier with Ecuador, Galeras coughed ash over neighboring towns.

Authorities reported no injuries or damage after the latest eruption.

Around 8,000 people live in risky areas, but often refuse to leave because they are used to frequent activity at the volcano and fear their homes will be ransacked.

The volcano erupted ten times last year, mostly with little impact on surrounding areas.

"People are obliged to leave, no one can sit around debating over what might occur. Even if up until now nothing has happened, we have to remain alert," Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras told local media.

Colombia's coffee federation had no reports of damage to crops in the area, a federation spokeswoman said. Colombia is the world's top producer of high-quality washed Arabica beans.

In previous eruptions, local residents reported large columns of smoke billowing over the volcano and towns have been covered with layers of ash.

The National Geological Institute said it would keep monitoring the volcano's activity before deciding whether to lift the warning it issued after the dawn eruption.

"The ash has slowed though it is still coming out," Cesar David Lopez at the institute said. "The area is normal except for the areas where ash hit earlier in the day."

The nearest large town, Pasto, has a population of 400,000 but is away from the area considered at risk from an eruption of Galeras.

The last eruption was in January this year when authorities ordered an evacuation but no one was killed or injured. In 1993, a massive eruption at Galeras killed ten people just as a scientific mission was examining the crater.

(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Nelson Bocanegra; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Vicki Allen)

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