Sangay ashfall is on the downtrend as communities clean streets and assess agricultural losses

Sep 22, 2020 | 1 comment

As small amounts of ash from the eruption of the Sangay volcano continued to fall, municipal workers in Guamote, Alausí, Chunchi, Guayaquil and Portoviejo were busy Monday afternoon sweeping streets and cleaning parks. In rural areas of four provinces, farmers were assessing damage to crops and livestock and say losses could run into the tens-of-millions of dollars.

Street cleaners in Alausí brush ash from a city street Monday afternoon.

On Monday afternoon, Ecuador’s Instituto Geofísico reported that volcanic activity at Sangay was on the “downward trend” but that the eruption remained active and could produce more ash at any time.

Of immediate concern in many smaller communities was water contamination caused by the ash. In Alausí and Pallatanga, workers were warning residents to use bottled water if possible to avoid the glass-like ash particles that affected between 30 percent and 40 percent of the water supply. “Because this is inorganic pollution, boiling will not clean the water for drinking,” an officer of the national risk management office said. “The clarification requires a filtration process to remove ash particles.”

The Ministry of Agriculture has begun a damage assessment in Chimborazo, Bolívar, Los Ríos and Guayas provinces. Ecuador’s banana crop appears to be especially hard-hit, with agriculture officials saying that 80 percent of the crops may be lost in several plantations. Workers were rushing to harvest and clean portions of the crop that were ready for shipment. Ecuador is the world’s top exporter of bananas.

In the higher elevations of Chimborazo and Bolívar provinces, farmers said much of their wheat and barley crops, which were almost ready for harvest, have been lost. In addition, they worry that livestock that ingested ash could get sick and die over the coming days.

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Most of the roads closed Sunday were open Monday afternoon and the Guayaquil airport, closed for 14 hours, has resumed full operation.

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