Thursday, August 24, 2006

Erupting volcano in Ecuador makes thousands homeless

Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano spewed molten rock, ash, and gases last week as authorities evacuated hundreds of families from the threatened area. The eruption of Tungurahua, located approximately 85 miles south of the capital, Quito, ended up killing four people and destroying 10 villages, leaving 5,000 people homeless.

Tens of thousands of acres of pasture and crops were also destroyed, according to the Associated Press citing the Civil Defense. The AP reported Oswaldo Proano, a spokesman for the Red Cross, told Radio Bolivar that “the situation in the villages affected by the eruption ... is difficult since all the water for human consumption is contaminated with ash."Officials said tanker trucks were helping to solve water problems, but donations of bottled water were still needed.

Marcelo Villagomez, Civil Defense coordinator of the province of Chimborazo, told the AP there were sufficient stores of food and water to last 15 days and requests have been made for additional supplies.Mario Paredes, a Church of the Nazarene district superintendent, said, “Overnight on Wednesday, August 16, the volcano exploded again, but this time stronger. It was the biggest in the last 120 years.

A lot of ash has fallen in Riobamba and Ambato.” On Friday, August 18, Paredes calculated that more than 100,000 bags of ash had been gathered. Some news agencies are reporting as much as 10 million tons of ash has fallen on areas surrounding the volcano.“Many towns have completely disappeared,” says Pastor Paredes, “So far, there have been four deaths, including a boy from our school.” Dozens of people are still missing from the surrounding communities. “At this point our town is like a desert,” says Paredes. “With so much volcanic ash, we have suspended all of our activities.” Paredes said cases of water and food are slow to arrive and some areas are not receiving any supplies at all due to conditions.

Dwight Rich, field strategy coordinator for the area, said all major highways remain closed and communication is extremely slow coming out of the affected areas.“I ask you all to pray for us here,” says Paredes. “Although we are scared, we are calm and trusting in our all-powerful God.”According to the AP, the eruption was the 14th time Tungurahua has sent hot lava and ash onto villages on its flanks since its first recorded eruption in 1534. After remaining dormant for eight decades, Tungurahua rumbled back to life in 1999 and has been active ever since.

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