Increasing activity at Cotopaxi volcano puts Quito, Los Chillos, on alert; Police foil attack on Manabí hospital; U.S. offers assistance in crime fight
As clouds of gas and ash rose two kilometers above the Cotopaxi volcano on Sunday, officials in Quito and nearby communities alerted residents of the possibility of increasing ashfall. The 5,897-meter volcano, which began its current active phase in mid-October, is located 45 kilometers southeast of Quito.
On Saturday and Sunday, 17 sites in Quito and the Los Chillos Valley reported light accumulations of ash and the National Risk Management Service urged residents to be prepared for the possibility of more. “Cotopaxi entered a new period of heightened activity in October and we expect this to continue in the coming weeks and months,” Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported Sunday. “On November 24 and 25, we detected an increasing number of earthquakes at the volcano as well as the rise of magma beneath the mountain. The activity does not currently pose a serious threat but it is on an upward trend and we advise authorities and the public to remain alert for changes.”
The Geophysical Institute said the immediate threat is to agricultural interests and advised that damage to crops and livestock could result if ashfall increases.
The Risk Management office reports that the gas and ash cloud is moving northwest from Cotopaxi over the Quito metropolitan area. “We expect the prevailing winds to continue to direct the emission cloud in the current direction,” it said in a statement.
Considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes by volcanologists, Cotopaxi entered an active phase in 2016, showering the Quito area with sometimes-heavy ashfall. The eruption, considered “moderate,” sent a series of lahars and lava flows down the mountain’s flanks, covering more than 100 hectares of the Cotopaxi National Park.
Police foil attack on Manabí hospital
Police arrested seven gunmen Sunday night after they took hostages at a hospital in Chone, northeast of Manta. The arrests followed a brief exchange of gunfire inside the Napoleon Davila Hospital.
According to the National Police command, the gunmen intended to murder a patient who was recovering from gunshot wounds in the hospital. The attackers were unable to locate their target and took five staff members hostages. One of the hostages, a nurse, appeared in a video at the door of the hospital, held by her captors.
According to the commanding officer, police personnel entered the hospital 15 minutes after receiving reports of the attack, securing the building by 9 p.m. Police say that the men arrested, as well as their target, are suspected gang members.
U.S. offers assistance in crime fight
The U.S. and Ecuador announced an agreement Thursday to combat the flow of unregistered firearms into Ecuador. National Police report increasing confiscations of illegal weapons in recent months and say most of them are used, or intended for use, in drug gang violence.
“The U.S. and Ecuador have agreed to share critical information on illegal weapons through the eTrace database,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, U.S. ambassador to Ecuador. “This important step provides Ecuador with new tools to combat organized crime and strengthen citizen security.”
The agreement is the latest in a series of offers from the U.S. to assist Ecuador combat criminal gang activity. Earlier, the U.S. agreed to provide surveillance equipment and technology to track illegal drugs at Ecuador ports and to monitor offshore drug shipments.
According to General Police Commander Fausto Salinas, 7,662 weapons have been seized from criminal gangs in 2022 as well as more than 140,000 rounds of ammunition, 6,254 sticks of dynamite and 2,258 kilos of ammonium nitrate, an explosive used in illegal mining.