Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport could become a major relief hub in the case of large eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano.
Based on contingency plans developed by the government to identify airports that would be out of range of volcanic ash clouds, Cuenca along with airports in Machala and Loja could be pressed into service.
According to authorities, prevailing winds will blow ash clouds in an arc ranging from north of Cotopaxi to southwest, potentially affecting the airports in Quito, Esmeraldas, Manta and Guayaquil. Although Guayaquil is less likely to be affected, it has been closed four times, once for two days, in the past 15 years due to ash clouds from the Tungurahua volcano.
Ecuador’s civil aviation authority says it is developing plans for all contingencies and says that the Cuenca airport, even if Guayaquil remains open, would be used in supply and relief efforts since it is closest to Cotopaxi.