One of the largest airports in Ecuador has reduced most of its operations due to the growing threat of the nearby Cotopaxi volcano. Officially called the Cotopaxi International Airport, the facility near Latacunga opened three years ago with the expectation that it would rival Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport as an international freight terminal.
Although some airport operations continue, Wednesday’s report from the Geophysical Institute that magma is rising under the volcano will probably reduce activity even further.
The problem, according to geologists and risk managers, is that much of the airport is built on debris fields from the last major Cotopaxi eruption in 1877.
Darwin Vallejo, airport director, says many freight companies are relocating their operations to Quito and that most passenger service has been suspended. He says that overnight work shifts have been eliminated as a safety precaution.
The latest reports on volcanic activity say that magma is rising toward the surface and that pressure continues to increase within the magma chamber, several kilometers beneath Cotopaxi.
“We expect this upward movement to continue in the coming days,” the institute bulletin said. “This trend could indicate an eruption in coming days, weeks or months.”
The institute said that gas and steam emissions rose on Monday to a height of 2.5 kilometers above the crater but said that ash emissions were minimal.