Photo in the News: Volcano Eruption Wipes Out Ecuador Villages

Volcano eruption in Ecuador photo
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August 17, 2006—At least 1 person is dead and 60 others are missing after Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano spewed molten rock onto three villages last night.

Tungurahua, seen here erupting on July 18, has shown heightened activity for much of the past two months. The latest eruption shot ash and hot gas five miles (eight kilometers) into the air and destroyed the towns of Chilibu, Choglontuz, and Palitagua.

"[The villages] no longer exist," Juan Salazar, mayor of Penipe, another nearby village, told local television. "Everything is wiped out."

Authorities had evacuated hundreds of families in the hours before the eruption, but many people remained behind and were injured by falling rocks or burned by lava and hot vapor.

Tungurahua sits high in Ecuador's Andes mountains, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the country's capital of Quito (map of Ecuador).

The 16,500-foot (5,000-meter) volcano roared back to life in 1999 after nearly 80 years of dormancy.

And the threat isn't over yet. Scientists from Ecuador's national geophysics institute warn that even though the mountain has calmed down for the moment, another cycle of activity could begin at any time.

—Aalok Mehta

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