Colombia's Galeras erupts, evacuation ordered

BOGOTA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Colombia's Galeras volcano erupted on Wednesday, forcing authorities to order the evacuation of thousands of residents from nearby villages and towns, officials said.

Galeras, which has often spewed gas and clouds of ash into the skies in recent years, is located in Colombia's Andes about 310 miles (500 km) southeast of Bogota near the frontier with Ecuador. It erupted ten times last year.

"The level of activity in the volcano shifted to red which means an imminent or current eruption," the country's National Geological Institute said in a statement.

The latest eruption came after several small tremors, and it forced officials to order local residents to abandon their homes and take shelter away from the volcano.

Around 8,000 people live in risky areas nearby, but many often refuse to leave their homes after frequent eruptions.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Vicki Allen