- QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters)
- Ecuador's El Reventador volcano erupted on Sunday, covering the capital
Quito with thick ash that sparked health warnings and forced the airport
to close indefinitely, authorities said.
- Although there were no known fatalities from the avalanche
of burning rock, health officials warned the city's 1.4 million inhabitants
to stay indoors because of the danger of inhaling ash from the volcano
about 60 miles to the east.
- "Stay calm and don't leave your homes ... If you
have to leave, please cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth,"
said Col. Miguel Flores, civil defense chief for the Quito area, describing
the ash as harmful if inhaled.
- Juan Neira, manager of Quito's water company, told Reuters
the company was studying the possible impact of ash contaminating drinking
water. "We are in an emergency situation," he said.
- El Reventador, an 11,683-foot peak in Ecuador's Amazon
jungle whose name in Spanish means "the bursting one," began
erupting at 7 a.m. (same EST) -- shooting a mushroom cloud nine miles into
- Gases, ash and rock swept down the sides of the volcano,
charring the jungle peak, darkening the mid-day skies and coating roads
with cream-colored soot.
- Red Cross officials said some 3,000 people living near
the base of the volcano fled early in morning, as El Reventador slowly
came to life, rumbling and emitting strong-smelling sulfur gases which
acted as an natural alarm. Two people suffered burns as they tried to rescue
belongings from their house.
- Officials warned El Reventador could erupt again soon.
- "I think this eruption is going to affect us in
the coming days and in addition, it isn't a single event, but a volcanic
process," said the director of Ecuador's Geophysical Institute, Hugo
- As the ash rolled over Quito, turning the sky a hazy
pink, Sunday soccer games were scrapped and thousands of people emptied
from a massive city park as parents swept their children off the streets
and into homes.
- The few people remaining on the roads carried umbrellas
and covered their mouths with their shirt sleeves to avoid inhaling flakes
of ash that fell like snow.
- The city's airport was shut down indefinitely because
of the damage the ash would do to aircraft engines. Regional air traffic
control centers were alerted to direct aircraft clear of the ash cloud,
- Quito was previously covered in ash three years ago when
the nearby Guagua Pichincha volcano erupted. El Reventador's last eruption
was in 1976.
- "Nobody likes this (ash)," said Quito taxi
driver Milton Romero, who turned on his headlights to help him navigate
hazy streets. "But it's better than if it were a lava eruption."
- Additional reporting by Isabel Proano, Carlos Andrade
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