Those living near the Cotopaxi volcano can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for awhile.
Ecuador’s Office of Risk Management decided Wednesday to downgrade the threat of the volcano from yellow to white. This follows recent reports by the country’s Geophysical Institute (IG) that internal and surface activity has dropped significantly in recent weeks. The IG says it expects a continued downward trend in activity for the foreseeable future.
This is good news, not just for communities close to Cotopaxi but for the country in general. “One of our largest fears since April has been that while we are dealing with damage from the earthquake, the volcano would erupt,” said William Parra, spokesman for the risk management agency. “This would be a nightmare scenario since an eruption could be far worse than the earthquake,” he added.
Risk management had declared the yellow alert, indicting a high degree of danger, last August following two explosions in the crater of Cotopaxi. The explosions were followed by heightened seismic activity, and large releases of gases and ash. The Cotopaxi National Park was closed for three months and agriculture to the west and south of the volcano sustained heavy damage from ashfall. The tourist industry in the area reported losses of almost half a billion dollars, due to cancellations.
Intensive evacuation and civil defense training were conducted following the explosions, and about $300 million were spent for preparations.
The IG said it continues to monitor the volcano and risk the management office says that it will change the risk status if conditions change.