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Ecuador: Tungurahua Volcano Erupts and Spreads Ash

Categories: Latin America, Ecuador, Breaking News, Disaster, Travel

The Mama Tungurahua [1]volcano again registered large activity on May 28. Two eruptions were felt at 8:47 and 11:00 AM, and provoked a great outpouring of ash that reached the provinces of Guayas, Los Rios, Chimborazo and Bolivar, as well as affecting cities like Baños, Penipe, Guayaquil and Babahoyo in Sierra and Costa. The Tungurahua began its activity in 1994 and had hit Baños in 1999. [2]


Baños sits in the shadows of a huge mountain bluff, from which rises Volcan Tungurahua. Photo by ‘dnevill’ in Flickr and used under a CC license.

Guayaquil airport suspended its activities on the day after its mayor, Jaime Nebot called a ‘Code Red’, meaning no landings were allowed in or out the Jose Joaquin de Olmedo Intenational Aiport in Guayaquil [4] until Saturday 29. School classes were also suspended [5] until further notice in three provinces, Tungurahua, Los Rios and Guayas. Hugo Yepes, the Director of the Geophysics Institute [6] of Polytechnical School in Quito, the major authority on this matters in Ecuador, has said that even though the volcano activities diminished that afternoon at 2:30 PM, it is expected to continue to spread ash for at least 5 more days.

Blogger Max Souffriau of Necatpace [es] [7] is always on the move y loves photography, he snapped a series of pictures of what it looked like the streets in Guayaquil. He asks drivers to try not to be on the street, the ground is slippery, he writes, and he warns that if ash gets passes by the air filters into the motor of your car, it may get damaged.


Photo of ash on the cars in Guayaquil by Max Souffriau and used under a CC license.

Columns of volcanic residuals reached 10 Km high and drifted in a southwest direction due to the wind currents. That is why for the very first time, the people in Guayaquil, in its north region, had to use masks. In Guayaquil [8] most troubles were cantons: Jujan, Yaguachi, Balsar, El Empalme y Samborondón.

Luz Gabriela Rodriguez witnessed the fall of ash while driving. In her blog Entre El, Nosotros y Ella [es] [9] she asks whether we are being witnesses of our lasts days. She quotes the Bible and remembers catastrophes and earthquakes will be our end, according to the Bible. She also compares Tungurahua's situation with Pacaya's eruption in Guatemala: [10]

El poder anuncia su presencia. Las nubes de cenizas volcánicas viajan con rapidez ayudadas por los vientos. La lluvia de arena se siente. Y es que los fluidos del interior del volcán se pronuncian, las rocas incandescentes son expulsadas de manera amenazantes y por supuesto, cobran victimas.

The Almighty announces his presence. Volcanic ash clouds travel quickly aided by the winds. The rain feels sandy. And the fluids from the inside of the volcano appear, the ejected incandescent rocks are so threatening and of course, take its victims.

In his blog [es] [11], Luis Párraga Galarza also comments that he was on the street when ash was falling from sky. He and his niece felt firsthand the consequences, stinging eyes, and burning throats, he wrote:

Eran las 1:30 pm y salgo de mi casa para ir a ver a mi sobrina a su colegio, el día esta bastante oscuro, le dije a mi madre, que pasará. Viajabamos por la Francisco de Orellana y me decia a mi mismo, que pasa parece neblina. Más adelante veiamos a los vendedores ambulantes con sus ojos llorosos, ya la cosa pasaba de claro a oscuro, pero comenzabamos a sentir una picazón en la garganta, la radio anunciaba la erupción del Volcan Tungurahua, increible lo que hacia sombrio el dia era ceniza volcanica, primera vez que pasa en esta ciudad.

It was 1:30 pm and I left my house to go see my niece at her school, the day is dark enough, I told my mother, what will happen. We traveled by Francisco de Orellana Street and I said to myself, what is going on, looks like fog. Later we saw street vendors with their watery eyes, and everything went from light to dark, but we began to feel a tickle in the throat, the radio announced the eruption of the Tungurahua Volcano, incredible what made the day gloomy was the volcanic ash, first time it happens in this city

The Ecuadorian twitter community [es] [12] was following incidents, as well. Alejandra Coral (@laaaflakaaa) confirms what Ecuadorian media is saying about evacuation of localities known as Pondoa, Juive Chico, Juive Grande, Puntzán, Runtún, La Pampa, in the province of Tungurahua. She posted [es] [13]:

Baños está siendo evacuada. La actividad del volcán, pese a que es menor que en la mañana, sí incrementó en estos momentos.

Baños is being evacuated. Even though the activity of the volcano is slower than in the morning, it did increase at these moments.

While Carlos Nuñez [14] (@Charlie_Nunez_) does not let the opportunity go away to criticize those who consume cigars. He writes: “Ash does not kill … what it kills is the cigarettes.” However, this opinion runs contrary to what Enlace Ecuador [es] [15] stresses on the danger of ashes to the human health.

To the people living in the area, the ‘Mama Tungurahua’ volcano activity is familiar, even though the eruption on May 28 was the second most strongest felt since the beginning of its volcanic activity. Paul Barahona [16](@palulo) lives in the surroundings, in one of the tweets he sent, described what he felt and how domestic animals reacted. He wrote, “the Tungurahua continues with his bellowing, the windows vibrate and the cat escaped into the street.”