Two explosions were recorded at the Cotopaxi volcano early Friday morning and falling ash and a strong odor of sulfur were reported as far north as Quito.
The explosions occurred a few minutes past 4 a.m. and set off a swarm of small earthquakes, the largest a magnitude 2.9. Residents of Latacunga and southern Quito reported feeling the tremors.
Officials at the Cotopaxi National Park ordered all climbers off the mountain and ordered those staying at two refuges to leave. Parts of the park is now off limits to tourists.
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute (IG) said it would conduct overflights this morning of the Cotopaxi crater. IG spokeswoman Patricia Mothes said that cloud cover was preventing observations from the ground. “After the flights we will know more about the situation,” she said, adding the pilots will be instructed to avoid the crater if activity increases from present levels.
On the south side of Quito, cars were covered with ash, and the air smelled of sulfur, residents reported. As of 7 a.m. a light drizzle of ash continued to fall over a wide swath, north and northwest of the volcano.
Many residents living in the path of the ash fall were wearing masks on Friday.
Risk management officials in Latacunga, 20 miles west of Cotopaxi, said they had alerted all emergency workers to be on call. Officials in Quito, 35 miles to the north, said they were planning meetings.