Cotopaxi volcano has been erupting since late last week, covering roads and homes with volcanic ash. Eruptions in Ecuador have shot ash more than two miles into the sky, spreading fine gray powder over the region as far as the capital of Quito, 30 miles to the north.
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency on Saturday. The decree gives authorities more flexibility in using government funds to deal with any problems. Hundreds of people were initially evacuated as a precaution, and a prohibition was placed on journalists to inhibit them reporting information that wasn’t from official sources.
Correa claimed this restraint to be necessary to guarantee the safety of citizen’s around the volcano. Reporters must use information from the security ministry’s official bulletins. According to the government, this measure has been taken to eliminate rumors and misinformation.
“The most important thing is not to create unnecessary panic in the population, and not to create excessive tranquility either,” Communication Minister Fernando Alvarado said.
Ash explosions and pyroclastic flows on the volcano’s western slopes on Saturday, led officials to evacuate the residents of nearby villages.
Cotopaxi is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, known as lahars. It last had a major eruption in 1877.
Authorities already have restricted access to the park that surrounds snow-capped Cotopaxi and suspended ascents of the peak, which is popular with mountaineers.
Top disaster official Maria del Pilar Cornejo told reporters that the effect of ash shooting from the volcano is dependent on winds in the area. She added that the biggest threat to those around the volcano was the potential for a fast-moving mud and rock current.