The Tungurahua volcano, 120 miles north of Cuenca, has flared to life, dusting nearby villages and farms with ash and prompting warnings from the country’s Emergency Operations Committee. On Saturday, the committee raised the threat level from yellow to orange, the second highest alert level.
Continuing explosions, small earthquakes and modest lava flows have characterized the most recent activity of the volcano that has been in an active state since 1999. Residents of the villages of Cusu, Chacauco and Bilbao, were coated in a quarter inch of ash Friday night and Saturday morning and their populations were warned that an evacuation order could be issued if the situation worsens. The nearby tourist town of Baños de Ambato has also been put on alert although the wind direction has so far spared it of ash fall.
The National Geophysical Institute is taking a cautious approach but says the situation could change. "This is a modest increase of activty, with an upward trend, which deserves proper precautions,” said Rick Sanchez, the risk management secretary of the institute. “With the orange alert, protocol requires that shelters are enabled and army personnel and vehicles are mobilized,” said Sanchez.
More than a dozen villagers were killed in a 2006 eruption and authorities said that their priority was to avoid loss of life.
Although the volcanic activity does not directly affect Cuecna it has forced the cession of air traffic in the past due to airborne ash.
BRITISH OFFICIALS TRY TO CALM INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO THREAT TO TO ARREST JULIAN ASSANGE
British officials are working behind the scenes to defuse tensions over a threat to storm Ecuador's embassy to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuador granted asylum to Assange on Thursday.
The British press and opposition leaders have slammed the government for its threat to invade the London embassy. According the national newspaper, The Guardian, the threat “represents a new low in our national stupidity.”
Meanwhile, Ecuador gained the support of all Latin Americans nations in reaction to the threat. In fact, the only countries in the Western Hemisphere not supporting Ecuador in the matter are the U.S. and Canada. According to Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa, the country will be subject to what he called "colonial" bullying.
On Sunday morning Assange spoke to London supporters from a balcony of the embassy, thanking Ecuador for asylum and demanding the U.S. drop what he called its “witch hunt” against leakers and the press.
OPENING OF NEW QUITO AIRPORT DELAYED UNTIL SPRING 2013
Following growing pressure frorm air carriers, freight transporters and local politicians, officials of Quito’s new airport have agreed to delay the opening until February or March, 2013. One announcement stated that flights would begin February 20 but another said the opening could be pushed back another month. Originally, the opening date was October 12.
The decision was made following heated meetings last week during which representatives of the airline industry and other interests protested that too many problems remained to be resolved before operations could smoothly begin.
A major reason for the delay was ongoing road work between the airport and Quito. Those pushing for the delay said that the work would be nearer to completion next year and pointed out that a number of local festivals, scheduled for December through February, will put additional burdens on the transportation system. The airport is located 20 kilometers east of downtown Quito but, due to construction, the trip from the airport to central Quito is estimated to take as much as two hours, with taxi fares running $25 to $30.
EUCADOR SEEKS MORE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS WITH CHEAP FUEL OFFER
President Rafael Correa hopes to induce airlines to offer new non-stop flights to Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Frankfurt and Rome with the offer of a 40% discount on jet fuel.
He said in a regular weekly broadcast Saturday the benefit would last for five years and airlines would have to promise to fly at least three times a week, but gave no further details.
Correa says the aim is to improve connections, productivity, tourism and education in the country.
Ecuador promotes tourist attractions such as its Galapagos Islands and rainforests, as well as picturesque cities such as Quito and Cuenca.
Photo caption: A Friday night view of Volcan Tungurahua; credit: El Comercio