Ecuador: Villagers flee as volcano erupts

Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano shot columns of ash miles into the air as officials ordered 3,000 villagers living near its slopes to evacuate.

Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano shot columns of ash miles into the air as officials ordered 3,000 villagers living near its slopes to evacuate.

Around 1,000 villagers from the western flanks of the 16,575ft volcano fled their homes for shelters, said Roberto Rodriguez, director of civil defence.

He said 11 families who refused to leave, fearing looters, were removed by force.

“We’ve taken all of the precautions possible,” President Rafael Correa said yesterday, adding that a state of emergency already in place would be extended for 60 days.

Juan Salazar, the mayor of the nearby village of Penipe, said 3,000 people needed to be evacuated – a figure that included the 1,000 villagers who had already fled.

Experts at the Geophysics Institute warn that the intense activity shows no sign of slowing down, and compared it to the massive 2006 Tungurahua eruptions that buried entire villages, leaving at least four dead and thousands homeless.

“The volcano has entered a new explosive eruption cycle, a process which does not seem to be slowing down,” said Hugo Yepez, director of the institute.

The institute said the eruptions shot ash six miles into the air.

Populations on Tungurahua’s western flank have been most affected, particularly the communities of Bilbao, Cusua, Chacauco and Puela. The popular tourist town of Banos near the volcano, is currently not at risk.

There were no reported victims, according to Mr Rodriguez.

Ash billowing from Tungurahua, whose name means “throat of fire” in the local indigenous Quichua language, has already covered thousands of acres of farmland, destroying property, crops and livestock.

Tungurahua, 95 miles south east of the capital Quito, has been active since 1999.

:: A volcano in southern Chile that erupted on January 1 has resumed “permanent eruptive activity” but poses no immediate danger, authorities say.

“The volume of lava emission is very small and it has reached only some 4,900 feet from the crater” of the Llaima volcano, said Juan Cayupi, a vulcanologist with the Emergency Bureau. Llaima volcano is 400 miles south of Santiago.

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