8:33 AM Saturday Apr 30, 2011
NZ Herald NewsEcuador’s Tungurahua volcano hurled truck-sized pyroclastic boulders more than a kilometre in a powerful eruption that prompted at least 300 people to flee their homes, authorities said.
Schools were closed for a third straight day as ash showered down on a dozen towns in the sparsely populated area surrounding the 5,023-metre volcano.
Thundering explosions could be heard miles from Tungurahua, which is on the Andes cordillera 135 km southeast of Ecuador’s capital, Quito.
A state Geophysics Institute scientist monitoring the volcano from a nearby observation post said by phone that incandescent boulders were landing up to 2 km beneath crater level.
“The smallest blocks are that size of an automobile while the biggest reach the size of a truck, which cause impact craters up to 10 metres wide as they hit the flanks,” the scientist, Silvana Hidalgo, told The Associated Press.
She called the eruption level “moderate to high”.
Civil defence officials reported an intense shower of ash east of the volcano, including in Banos, a tourist destination 5 km away that is popular for its hot springs.
The volcano has been active since 1999. At least four people were killed and thousands evacuated in eruptions in July and August of 2006.