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Updates on Volcanic Activities in Ecuador

photo of Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

On June 19, 2015, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updates on the Cotopaxi volcanic activity and other volcanoes in Ecuador.

FCO advises against all travel within the 20km exclusion zone along the border with Colombia except for the official border crossing town of Tulcan in Carchi province.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the areas of Tarapoa and the Cuyabeno reserve outside the 20km zone in Sucumbios.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the areas of El Angel Ecological Reserve inside the 20 km exclusion zone in the province of Carchi.

There are a number of active volcanoes in Ecuador. You should monitor media reports and the website of the National Ecuadorean Geophysics Institute (in Spanish) for the latest information on volcanic activity. If you are planning to climb one of Ecuador´s volcanoes, you should contract an official mountaineering guide.

Exposure to falling ash from a volcanic eruption can harm your health, especially if you have existing respiratory problems. Stay inside with windows and doors shut and place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources. If you go outside, wear a disposable face-mask and change it frequently. Wear long-sleeved clothing and long trousers to protect your skin, and goggles to protect your eyes.

Reventador

The Reventador Volcano, in Napo province in the Amazon region has shown further increased volcanic activity since October 2012. On 26 March 2014, the Ecuadorean National Risk Control Agency placed an orange alert in the immediate areas around the volcano (along Napo, Orellana and Sucumbios provinces), due to renewed volcanic activity which remains at moderate.

The local authorities continue to advise visitors not to attempt to climb the volcano. Ash fall from Reventador volcano has the potential to affect flight operations around Quito (95 km northeast).

Tungurahua

The Tungurahua Volcano, overlooking the tourist town of Banos (135 km south of Quito), has been active since 1999, with occasional eruptions.

The Ecuadorean authorities continue to restrict access to the volcano. A yellow alert for the volcano and surroundings in Tungurahua and Chimborazo provinces was issued on 4 May 2015. The latest eruption was on 4 April 2014, spreading ash and debris over the surrounding area. Volcanic activity is now low-moderate. You should monitor local media and follow instructions issued by the Ecuadorean authorities.

If you are in Baños when an emergency occurs you should try to reach the evacuation shelters on the east side of town, around the ‘Santa Ana’ neighborhood. This is on the main road out of Baños towards Puyo. Evacuation routes are marked with yellow arrows throughout the town. There is also a siren system to alert people to evacuate.

For further information (in Spanish) contact the Baños Municipality Risk Management Unit on 00 593 3 2740 421.

You should also monitor media reports and the website of the National Ecuadorian Geophysics Institute (in Spanish) for the latest information on volcanic activity.

Chiles and Cerro Negro

Both volcanoes are located in the northern border with Colombia, 20km and 25km respectively from the city of Tulcan in the province of Carchi. Following unusual seismic and volcanic activity in April and October 2014, the Ecuadorean National Control Risk Agency placed an orange alert in November 2014. However, there has been a subsequent decrease in volcanic activity and a yellow alert was issued on 11 March 2015. Monitor local media and follow the instructions of the local authorities.

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi Volcano in Cotopaxi province (south of Quito) is popular with amateur mountaineers. Its activity is closely monitored by the Ecuadorean authorities and the volcano is considered active, but not currently dangerous. Since mid-April 2015, the Cotopaxi volcano has experienced an unusually high level of seismic activity and an increase in sulfur dioxide emissions. The Ecuadorean Geophysical Institute is monitoring the activity daily. Volcanic activity is now moderate.

The Ecuadorean National Risk Control Agency has not issued any alert. Although the Ecuadorean authorities have not restricted access to the volcano, they are advising tourists not to attempt climbing to its crater due to the high levels of sulfur dioxide. You should therefore take extra care and monitor the news for any updates or alerts.

Guagua Pichincha

Located 12km from Quito (western part). Since March 2015, there has been an increase in volcanic activity. The Ecuadorean authorities have restricted access to the volcano until further notice.

Sangay

Sangay Volcano, located between the provinces of Chimborazo and Morona Santiago in the Andean and Amazon regions has shown increased activity. The volcano is not located in a populated area of the country, and the Ecuadorean authorities don’t have a permanent monitoring system in place. However, Ecuador´s Geophysical Institute has advised against climbing the volcano.

Wolf

The Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island within the Galapagos Islands started its eruption cycle on 25 May 2015. The volcano is in an uninhabited area.

Earth tremors

Since Ecuador is located in an active seismic area, there are frequent earth tremors, but these rarely cause any damage or casualties. However, as Ecuador is located in the Pacific Ocean´s Ring of Fire, the earthquake risk is very high.

In August 2014, a 5.1 Richter scale shallow earthquake struck Quito and the surrounding areas. The epicenter was in the north of Quito near the international airport in Tababela which was closed for an hour as a precaution. Parts of the city were covered in clouds of dust following some landslides in the north. At least 3 people were killed and others injured in the Catequilla area. The Guayllabamba road in the north of the province was closed for some months due to landslide risks.

On 28 April 2015, a 71 km depth 5.8 Richter scale earthquake struck Guayaquil and the surrounding districts. No significant damage was reported.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the US Federal Emergency Management Agency's website.

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