A series of earthquakes over the weekend at the Cotopaxi volcano has put nearby communities on alert for what the national risk management office calls an “ominous threat.” In a Sunday statement, risk managers urged local officials in vulnerable areas of Cotopaxi and Pichincha Provinces to “increase the pace of preparations” for a possible eruption.
In a Sunday bulletin, the Geophysical Institute said it was recording “high-energy seismic signals associated with volcanic activity.” It added that earthquakes under and near Cotopaxi were increasing in both “quantity and intensity.”
Risk managers are advising residents living to the west of Cotopaxi to be prepared for “ongoing periods of light to moderate ashfall.” In several communities, including El Chasqui and Latacunga, residents are advised to wear face masks and protective eyewear when ash is falling.
During the past seven days, ash has been reported within a 180 degree arc to the west of the volcano, including the southern suburbs of Quito. Officials say that Tungurahua Province could also experience ashfall as activity intensifies.
On Sunday, the plume of gas and ash rose more than 3,000 meters above the Cotopaxi crater.
Petroecuador chief resigns in corruption probe
Hugo Aguiar, general manager of Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroecuador, resigned after his home was among several locations searched by police on Friday. The Attorney General’s Office said the raids, that continued on Saturday, are based on allegations of corruption at Petroecuador.
Aguiar gave his “voluntary and irrevocable resignation” in a letter addressed to the coordinator of Ecuador’s public companies, shared with the energy ministry and national planning secretary. The letter contained no comments on the corruption charges.
According to prosecutors, the raids were based on information provided by the U.S. State Department involving unnamed officials at Petroecuador. No details were released regarding specific charges but it is believed Aguiar is one of the officials named in the U.S. complaint.
In January, President Guillermo Lasso asked managers of all public companies to resign their positions amid reports of possible corruption in some entities.
‘Collateral deaths’ on the rise in gang violence
The Interior Ministry reported Saturday that the number of “collateral deaths associated with drug violence” is growing in the country. It said that many of the victims are women and children caught in crossfire between rival gangs.
In 2022, the Ministry says there were 90 collateral deaths, including 36 men, 23 women and 31 children nationwide, a 45% increase over 2021. “More than half of these deaths, 47 of 90, occurred in Zone 8, made up of Guayaquil, Durán and Samborondón, and most of these occurred in three neighborhoods of Guayaquil.”
The Ministry said that most collateral deaths were the result of gang hitmen shooting into homes or large gatherings of people. “It is especially disturbing that so many of the victims are children, several of them infants,” it said. In one case, the Ministry reported that a two-month-old baby suffocated when her mother was shot and fell on top of her.