Country remains on alert for volcanoes; Tungurahua sends up ash plumes as national park visitors are provided evacuation maps at Cotopaxi
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reports that activity at the Cotopaxi and Tungurahua volcanoes continues at the “moderate” level. On Friday, an ash plume rose to a height of 3,000 meters above the Tungurahua crater as Cotopaxi, 50 miles to the north, continued to emit sulfur gas clouds.
Director of Tungurahua Observatory Pedro Espín says that, in addition to ash clouds, a small lava flow has been observed near the Cusúa and Loma Grande communities. He said, however, he did not believe the flow would reach any populated areas.
Espin said that explosions at Tungurahua would continue and that the Geophysical Institute would issue a warning if the observatory sees an increase in current activity.
At Cotopaxi National Park, personnel are providing information to visitors, warning of possible evacuations. The park is also working with guides to keep climbers on the 5,911-meter volcano below the levels of toxic gas emissions.
Communities near Cotopaxi have developed emergency plans in case volcanic activity increases. Meetings and drills have been conducted in Latacunga and and smaller towns in the area.
Cotopaxi, about 30 miles south of Quito, is the world’s highest active volcano. There have been 50 eruptions in historic times and several of them have sent lava flows as far away as the Pacific Ocean. The city of Latacunga has been destroyed by eruptions three times since its founding in the mid-1500s.
Tungurahua, which has been in an active phases since 1999, poses the most serious threat to the tourist town of Baños, which is built on lava flows of prehistoric eruptions. A major eruption could affect Ambato, a city of 250,000, 20 miles to the west.