Ecuador Volcano: Evacuations Ordered After Mt. Cotopaxi Rumbles, Belches Ash

Government officials in Ecuador have ordered evacuations after an active volcanic mountain in the region started belching out ash in to the air. The volcano evacuations were ordered by the government on Saturday following a notable increase in volcanic activity on Mount Cotopaxi starting Friday. Following this, Ecuador declared a state of emergency so that people living in the vicinity of the volcano could be quickly moved to safer places.

Meanwhile, according to a recent Sky News report, the volcanic activity on Cotopaxi has fallen silent a few hours after the declaration of emergency. The Ministry of Security Co-ordination, the agency authorized by the government to issue warnings and evacuation notices confirmed that the volcano seems to have fallen silent after the evacuation orders were issued.

“Monitoring of the Cotopaxi volcano last night and this morning indicated no increase in activity,” a statement released by the Ministry said on Sunday.

Following the declaration of emergency, Ecuador also issued a “preventative censorship” order which forbids agencies other than the Ministry to issue reports about the volcano. This, according to the government, was put in place to avoid false rumors that could lead to panic.

The move was came under criticism – but the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa defended it terming it necessary in order to avoid panic and confusion.

“We will declare a state of emergency based on the activity of the Cotopaxi volcano. Why have I made that decision? To secure resources… to address a potential emergency and mobilize the necessary resources,” Correa stated in his weekly address to the nation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people living near the volcano are now in make-shift shelters located a safe distance away from Cotopaxi. They are unsure if it is safe to return to their homes with the volcanic activity lessening. However, several people have returned to their homes in spite of the danger of an eruption still looming large. It is estimated that over 1 million people live in the valleys near Cotopaxi spread across three different provinces of Ecuador.

Mt.Cotopaxi, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the region, stands 5,897 meters high. It last exploded in 1877 and is considered a grave threat due to its huge size and its proximity to populated areas.

Even though the activity on the volcano has subsided, government officials say they are still not taking any chances with the evacuations. The state of emergency in Ecuador is likely to remain in place for a period of 60 days. Mount Cotopaxi is one of the most sought after tourist locations in Ecuador and is located around 30 miles south of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

[Image Via Wikimedia Commons]