Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano roars back to life

Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano has recently roared back into life, delivering its first significant eruption in more than 70 years and raining ash down on the capital Quito, 50 kilometres away.

Captura-de-volcan-cotopaxiNow there are fears that pyroclastic rock and gas flows could melt the ice on the glacier-capped peak and flood nearby towns with volcanic mud. The last time that happened was in 1877, with fatal results.

Recently, Cotopaxi, one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, has continued to deliver smaller eruptions, with the government confirming another eruption.

“Cotopaxi is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes due to its proximity to population centres and very explosive activity, coupled with a tremendous potential for devastating volcanic mudflows, called lahars, which are formed by rapid melting of the icecap,” the University of Bristol’s Dr Jo Gottsmann said.

“A large lahar generated by the 1877 eruption travelled over 326 kilometres to the Pacific coast. Along its path lies the Valle de Los Chillos, which nowadays sees more than 200,000 people living along the lahar channels.”

The government warned that 325,000 people were at risk and declared a state of emergency. Reporting about the volcano has also been restricted.
Local residents fear lava could flow through the villages as it did during the last eruption 138 years ago.

Fears eruption could damage tourism industry. Cotopaxi National Park attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year to its slopes, among them, mountaineers seeking to climb one of the world’s highest volcano peaks.

For now, the 100,000 residents of the provincial capital of Latacunga remain on alert. The town has been destroyed three times by Cotopaxi.

Meanwhile, several foreign hikers wait in their Latacunga hostel in the hope that the eruptions will abate and they can climb Cotopaxi. They may be waiting a long time.

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