On-going explosions in the Tungurahua volcano near Ambato are rattling windows and nerves in the areas surrounding the mountain.
Since February 26, the volcano has produced sporadic flows of lava down its flanks and sent plumes of smoke and ash almost two kilometers above the crater. On Monday and Monday night, Tungurahua Volcano Observatory recorded 17 explosions that were followed by increased pyroclastic flows. “We are monitoring the situation very closely,” an Observatory spokesman said. “Residents in several communities near the volcano are on 24-hour alert in case we need to order evacuations,” he said.
A major concern, according to the Observatory, is the tourist town of Banos, which has a permanent population of about 20,000. The town was evacuated for several weeks in 1999 when Tungurahua reactivated after almost a century of inactivity.
The town has been shielded from lave flows and rock fall by the fact that the crater, created during activity in the late 1800s, is tilted in the opposite direction. Volcanologists have warned, however, that a major eruption could destroy Banos. The city is built on old lava flows from previous eruptions.
Ambato, a city of 300,000 located 22 miles wst of Tungurahua, could also be at risk of a major eruption since it too is built on lava from previous eruptions.