Volcán Tungurahua roars back to life, showering nearby towns and villages with ash; intensification is possible

Dec 17, 2012 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s Volcán Tungurahua has roared back to life on Saturday and Sunday with large explosions that have dropped as much as two inch of ash on nearby towns.

The Ecuadorian National Secretariat for Risk Management has issued an orange alert, the second-highest warning level, for towns near the volcano, as its level of activity rose, civil defense officials say.

The area of the warning covers the adjacent provinces of Tungurahua and Chimborazo, according to the national civil defense agency and includes the towns of Baños, Runtún, Pondoa, Pelileo, Cevallos and Ulba. Some ash was falling in Ambato, population 175,000, 20 miles to the west of the volcano and citizens were told to be on alert. Two highways in the area were closed as a precaution.

Most tourists in Baños, a town of 15,000 at the base of the volcano, were leaving the area, according to tour operators, who worried that the warnings were hurting business. “All my clients are leaving,” said Juan Ortega, who runs a white water rafting tours. “I understand why they are going. There are earthquakes and explosions. I just hope things calm down quickly.”

Baños was evacuated for several months following a 1999 eruption.

Greater activity has been building since last Wednesday, along with a slight increase in gas emissions from the 16,500-foot volcano, located about 90 miles south of Quito, the Geophysical Institute said.

Eruptions at Tungurahua, which means "Throat of Fire" in the indigenous Quechua language, peaked in 2006, killing six people in a Chimborazo village.

Federal officials say that so far national air traffic has not been affected. In 2009, all flights were cancelled for three days following an eruption as ash rose to 40,000 feet into the atmosphere and airports in Guayaquil, Manta and Cuenca were closed.

Cuenca has not been affected by past eruptions due to prevailing east to west air currents. The volcano is about 110 miles north of the city. Guayaquil, on the other hand, received heavy ash fall from the 2009 erpution.

Photo caption: Vulcan Tungurahua shows its colors Sunday night. 


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