Ecuador Volcano Shows Signs of Activity

The Associated Press
Saturday, May 13, 2006; 2:55 AM

QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano is emitting its loudest and most frequent explosions since it rumbled back to life nearly seven years ago after eight decades of inactivity, scientists said.

The volcano registered 133 explosions of vapor and gas between Wednesday and Friday, Ecuador's Geophysics Institute reported.

But the increased activity was not necessarily a sign of an imminent eruption, said Hugo Yepes, the institute's director.

"It has been rumbling constantly in the last six years, always registering explosions, emitting ash," he told The Associated Press.

"What's happening now is that since May 10, we have had times in which there are 10 explosions per hour, booms so powerful that they broke some windows in sectors like Cusua," a village on the western slopes of the volcano, Yepes added.

Residents say the thunderous explosions have not been so loud since 1999, Yepes said.

In October of that year, the volcano spewed huge columns of ash into the air, forcing the evacuation of 17,000 residents of Banos, a tourist town about 4 miles northeast of the crater. The 16,550-foot volcano is about 80 miles south of Ecuador's capital, Quito.

© 2006 The Associated Press