Sunday, August 20, 2006

Volcano eruption in Ecuador is a source of tragedie and destruction

The eruption of volcano Tungurahua on August 16 destroyed several small villages in the Ecuadorian Andes. At least 6 have been killed and about 4000 residents of the affected area have been evacuated.

During the night of Wedendsday to Thursday the 5,023 m high volcano spat lava, stones and ash for several hours. The 10km high ash cloud spread over an area of 740 by 180 km. Towns like
Ambato or Riobamba which are 30 km away from the volcano have still been covered with up to 5cm of ash. Pyroclastic flows descending on the northwestern slopes of the volcan left a path of destruction behind. At least seven small villages and hamlets have been completely destroyed.

The ash and rocks blocked the Chambo and the Peula river and the road Ambato - Ecuadorian highlands and the amazon region. The Institute for Geophysics has lost an important part of its equipment installed on the slopes of Tungurahua, limiting their capability to monitor the volcanic activity.

The Hydroelectric power plant Agoyan had to be shut down.

The night of Wednesday the Hydroelectric power plant
Agoyan near Ba񯳠has been shut down. During Thursday air traffic in the whole country was limited due to ash layers on several airports. On Thursday the provinces of Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi and Bolivar have been declared desaster area. Losses in agriculture due to the ash cover are estimated at $150 Million.

On Friday the volcanic activity declined and the volcano still stays calm on Saturday evening, but the Ecuadorian Institute for Geophysics warns that a further eruption may be imminent.

In 1999, after a long period of rest, the volcano started an eruptive process that continues to this day. After the first eruptions in October 1999 which produced a major ash out-fall and led to the temporary evacuation of more than 25,000 inhabitants of Ba񯳠and its surroundings, the activity continued on a medium level until in May 2006 it increased dramatically culminating in violent eruptions on July 14 and August 16.

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