Ecuador’s Co­topaxi vol­cano quiet af­ter prompt­ing state of emer­gency

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY RO­DRIGO BUEN­DIA

Af­ter rum­bling and belch­ing ash, the Co­topaxi vol­cano was silent Sun­day, hours af­ter Ecuador de­clared a state of emer­gency and fear­ful res­i­dents were evac­u­ated.

“Mon­i­tor­ing of the Co­topaxi vol­cano last night and this morn­ing in­di­cated no in­crease in ac­tiv­ity,” Ecuador’s Min­istry of Se­cu­rity Co­or­di­na­tion said in a state­ment.

The agency is the only source au­tho­rized to speak on the mat­ter af­ter Ecuador is­sued a “pre­venta- tive cen­sor­ship,” which Pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea de­fended as a means of avoid­ing false ru­mors that could un­leash panic.

Most of the evac­uees live along Co­topaxi province’s river com­mu­ni­ties and re­mained in shel­ters.

The vol­cano started to stir Fri­day, reg­is­ter­ing sev­eral small erup­tions and an­grily shoot­ing plumes of dust and ash 8 kilo­me­ters (five miles) into the sky.

Co­topaxi, which tow­ers to 5,897 me­ters high, is con­sid­ered one of the most threat­en­ing vol­ca­noes in the re­gion — both be­cause of its size and be­cause it is so close to

well-pop­u­lated towns.

Pop­u­lar with Tourists

Res­i­dents in the vil­lage of Lasso, which sits within the vol­canic zone, took ad­van­tage of the rel­a­tive calm to re­sume their daily ac­tiv­i­ties.

“To­day, it’s very quiet here. I see that busi­nesses have opened and cars are pass­ing by as nor­mal... it was chaos yesterday,” said Jaque­line So­jos, who runs a small ho­tel in the town.

“From my house, you can see this beau­ti­ful ( vol­cano)... I have never been afraid of it,” the 42- year- old told AFP.

The last time Co­topaxi erupted was in 1877.

On Satur­day, res­i­dents of var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties left their homes in droves, alarmed by sirens and calls to evac­u­ate to avoid po­ten­tial avalanches from the vol­cano’s in­creased ac­tiv­ity.

Hours later, some re­turned home af­ter author­i­ties ruled out im­mi­nent risk.

An es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion peo­ple live in the vol­cano’s area of in­flu­ence, which in­cludes parts of Co­topaxi, Napo and Pich­in­cha prov­inces.

On Satur­day, Cor­rea de­clared a state of emer­gency for up to 60 days, al­low­ing him to mo­bi­lize mil­i­tary and po­lice for se­cu­rity and re­lief work and free­ing up fi­nan­cial re­sources.

The cen­sor­ship mea­sures per­tained only to com­mu­ni­ca­tion about the vol­cano, in­clud­ing on so­cial net­works.

Lo­cated just 45 kilo­me­ters south of the cap­i­tal Quito, Co­topaxi is one of eight ac­tive vol­ca­noes in Ecuador and is a mag­net for tourists and hik­ers. Vol­canic ac­tiv­ity forced the clo­sure of the na­ture re­serve on which it is lo­cated.

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