Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute said that a small lahar was spotted late Satruday on the Cotopaxi volcano. A lahar is melting ice that flows down the flank of the volcano and is what authorities fear most in case of an eruption.
The institute said that the lahar occurred at 3,700 meters, 1,200 meters below the crater, and the ice melt was absorbed by the glacier below it. A larger lahar that gains momentum could create an avalanche of water, rock, and ice that could flow into nearby valleys within a matter of seconds. According to scientists, large lahars were the major killers of the 1877 Cotopaxi eruption that killed an estimated 10,000 people and destroyed the city of Latacunga and dozens of small communities.
An overflight of the volcano is scheduled on Monday to collect more information about the lahar. In addition to rising temperatures on the volcano, authorities said that rain may have created some of the ice melt.
Reports said that activity at the volcano remained constant on Saturday and that clouds of ash continued to head west and west northwest from the crater. Several inches of ash were reported in a number of areas, and ash fall was reported as far west as the Pacific Ocean.
The Institute says that although there is rising pressure in the magma chamber below the volcano, that magma has not yet begin to rise within the central vent.
On Saturday, the Security Ministry denied the television station Ecuavisa’s request to air a documentary, Visión 360, about the volcano. The ministry, which must approve news reports about Cotopaxi volcanic activity other than official reports, said the program might be alarming to viewers.