National coordinator for Cotopaxi emergency is angered when he’s put on hold by a 911 operator; he visits vulnerable areas near volcano

Aug 17, 2015

When a man complained Sunday to Ecuador’s Minister of Security, César Navas, that he was put on hold when he phoned 911 for the latest information about the Cotopaxi volcano, Navas made the same call.

Security Minister Navas talking to residents near Cotopaxi on Sunday.

Security Minister César Navas talking to residents near Cotopaxi on Sunday. Photo credit: El Comercio

After identifying himself and asking for a volcano update, he too was put on hold.

A visibly angry Navas told the man, “I understand your frustration. We obviously have work to do and it has to be done quickly.”

Navas was visiting towns and villages close to Cotopaxi, meeting with residents and officials who will be responsible for evacuations in case of an eruption. Only a day earlier, he had been designated point man by President Rafael Correa for coordinating all emergency plans for Cotopaxi.

During his Saturday national television broadcast, Correa announced that he was ordering a national state of emergency as a result of the increased activity at Cotopaxi. Besides putting Ravas in charge of volcano related operations, the order will allow the government to transfer funds from the budgets of other functions to deal with an eruption, and allow military forces to be deployed in case of an emergency. The order also makes the government the only source of official information about the volcano.

During Sunday’s tour of the towns of Mulaló, José Guango, and José Gungobajo, Ravas heard from a number of residents who said that they had not been told what to do in case of an eruption. Others were concerned about their crops and livestock and leaving their homes to the mercy of thieves if they are ordered to evacuate.

On Saturday morning, the government ordered the evacuation of several towns and villages but allowed some families to return home later in the day. For others living in communities next to Cotopaxi National Park, the evacuation order remains in effect.

In official advisories about the volcano, issued every two hours, geologists on Sunday said that activity at the volcano has not changed, saying the situation remains dangerous.

The director of Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute, Mario Ruiz, says he believes an eruption will occur. He says it could be within a matter of days, weeks or even months, but he also says it could happen at any moment.

 

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