August 17, 2006

Ecuador volcano spews rock

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano
spewed molten rock, ash and gases and a local mayor reported 60
people missing, as authorities on Thursday evacuated hundreds
of families from the threatened area.

Tungurahua, about 80 miles south of Quito, had earlier
shown a sharp increase in activity in July, when hundreds of
villagers living near the volcano to flee their homes.

"This is a lot worse than the last time," Mauro Rodriguez,
the Civil Defense chief for the Tungurahua province, told
Reuters. "We have so far evacuated around 300 families living
near the volcano."

A local mayor's report that 60 people living at the foot
the volcano were missing has not been confirmed yet by
emergency officials, and local authorities said there were no
reports of any injuries.

During the early hours of Thursday residents of the tourist
city of Banos, with a population of around 17,000 people,
briefly left their homes, but the city mayor told Reuters most
have already returned to the town on the south side of the
volcano's crater.

Local television stations showed images of molten rock
blasting from the crater and massive clouds of ash spewed by
the volcano.

Flows of molten rock, ash and gas blocked several near the

"In recent hours the volcano has quieted down, but a new
cycle could start at any moment," Pablo Samaniego, a scientist
with the national geophysics institute, told a television

Thousands of people have crowded nearby churches and
schools for refuge, said Javier Bermeo who runs the shelters in
the Tungurahua province. He said the exact number of evacuees,
mostly from towns on the east side of the crater, is not yet