Cuenca given all-clear from volcanic ash danger; winds shift to the north as Tungurahua’s activity subsides

Feb 4, 2014

The Azuay Province office of Risk Assessment reported Tuesday that Sunday’s ashfall from the Tungurahua volcano caused little damage in the area.

Air quality returned to normal levels Wednesday in Cuenca, measuring under 10 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter. On Sunday, the count reached 80 for several hours during the ashfall.The biggest concern was the effect of ash on agricultural areas, mostly to the east of Cuenca, but Javier Serrano, zonal director for the Ministry of Agriculture, said he has heard of only isolated cases of damage. Serrano’s office has dispatached personnel in Azuay and Cañar Provinces to talk to farmers and provide assistance if necessary.chl ambato1

The high altitude winds that brought the ash south from Tungurahua on Sunday have shifted to the north and are causing minor ashfall south of Quito. The ash plume has dropped below two kilometers, further diminishing the reach of ashfall. Following Saturday afternoon’s explosion, the plume reached more than eight kilometers into the atmosphere.

The area of most concern is in the immediate vincity of the volcano. Hundreds of hectares of crops have been destroyed and scores of cows and pigs remain in need of food and fresh water. Several cows were severely burned as result of pyroplastic flows.

Road crews were busy Wednesday clearing several access roads in the Baños area.

Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute is maintaining an orange alert for the volcano, its second highest danger level, and say activity could increase at any time. As of Tuesday afternoon, monitoring stations were reporting “moderate activity” in the volcano.

Photo caption: Saturday’s eruption as seen from Ambato; Photo credit: El Comercio.