As ash fall from the Cotopaxi volcano intensified on Friday and Saturday, farmers in its path say they face financial ruin. Several in the San Juan de Pastocalle parish, just west of the volcano, say their crops are dying. Some say they have lost cows.
The ash fall, which the government calls “moderate,” has affected a wide area west of the volcano, blowing west northwest or west southwest, depending on wind direction. The areas receiving the ash fall are in Cotopaxi and Pichincha Provinces.
Pictures from the areas most affected, reveal an almost other-worldly black- and-white scene with a fog of falling ash.
“With courage we face the volcano!” was the mantra in San Juan de Pastocalle. “What else can we do?” asked Delia Sánchez during a town meeting in the central plaza. “How are we going to survive with our plants and animals dying?”
The scene was similar in nearby communities.
In towns and cities to the west and north of Cotopaxi, Saturday was busy with evacuation drills, as residents of Los Chillos Valley and Latacunga practiced for a possible eruption. In some communities, the drills pointed out serious flaws in the emergency plans.
Residents of Rumiñahui walked as quickly as they could to areas designated as safe by emergency officials, but issues with wheel chairs, pets and children made the journey of as much as 30 minutes difficult for some. There was confusion about whether pets will be allowed in shelters, with some residents saying their pets are part of the family and cannot be left behind.
Hector Jacome, mayor of Rumiñahui, acknowledged that there were “weaknesses” in the plans that must be resolved. “The exercise today showed us what we need to do to be prepared and we will make changes from what we have learned,” he said.
Jacome said his staff was busy putting up signs pointing to safe areas in case of an eruption. He also said that alarm sirens have been purchased but they will not arrive for three weeks.
“There are so many problems and I don’t know if we have time to fix them,” said Paúl Gonzalez, a resident who participated in the drills. “They say that we may only have 15 minutes to go to a safe place and I don’t see how this will work.”