Increased eruptive activity at the Sangay volcano sent plumes of steam and ash over most of Azuay and Cañar Provinces Wednesday morning. At noon, light ashfall was reported in areas east and north of Cuenca and in much of Cañar Province. Risk management officials said the ashfall could affect Cuenca later in the day.
According to the Geophysical Institute, a southwesterly wind was responsible for spreading the volcanic emission and wind direction was not expected to change throughout the day.
Activity at Sangay has intensified in recent weeks, sending several pyroplastic flows down the flanks of the mountain, destroying hundreds of hectares of forest and temporarily blocking the flow of two rivers.
The 17,200-foot volcano is located in a remote area of Morona Santiago Province and no human injuries or deaths have been reported. Sangay is the closest active volcano to Cuenca, located about 70 miles to the northeast.
Ecuador’s risk management office advised residents to remain indoors if ashfall is observed. If exposed to ash, the office recommends protecting eyes, nose and mouth, and washing away ash with soap and water as soon possible.
The Geophysical Institute said that except for several high-elevation locations in the Cajas Mountains, ashfall is expected to be light and not pose a serious health threat. It said it is closely monitoring activity at Sangay and will provide updates as necessary.
At 4 p.m., the national meteorology institute predicted late afternoon and evening rain for Cuenca it said the precipitation would clear the sky.