Last updated: 01:03 PM ET, Sat August 15 2015

Ecuador's Cotopaxi Volcano Erupts

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 15, 2015

Ecuador's Cotopaxi Volcano Erupts

Photo via Twitter/metesohtaoglu

Ecuador’s capital of Quito is on high alert as nearby Cotopaxi Volcano erupted Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The 19,600-foot volcano, looming a mere 30 miles from the city, started waking up in April. The last major eruption was in 1877, and despite this activity, government scientists told the AP that a major eruption was not expected.

Cotopaxi still put on a pre-dawn show, shooting ash over two miles into the sky, which covered highways, houses and vehicles south of Quito with fine gray powder, according to the AP.

Maria del Pilar Cornejo, Ecuador's top disaster official, told the AP a yellow alert was in effect, meaning no evacuations were necessary, but logistical preparations would be made just in case.

Commenting to the AP, Patricio Ramon of Ecuador's geophysics institute said Friday’s volcanic explosions were “phreatic eruptions,” occurring when molten rock meets water, producing a violent steam release.

The dangerous conditions have caused authorities to cordon off the park surrounding Cotopaxi and suspend ascents to the top. The volcano is popular with mountaineers. Cotopaxi Climbing a company that guides tourists to the summit estimates that 5,000 people climb the peak annually.

The AP said Cotopaxi is among Earth’s most dangerous volcanoes, for two reasons — during an eruption, its glaciers have the potential to set off swiftly traveling volcanic rock and mudflows, and the fact that it is so close to Quito.

Meanwhile Japan’s Sakurajima Volcano on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu is showing signs of a potential eruption, CNN reported. Japan's meteorological agency has issued a level 4 emergency warning for the immediate area, which deems it necessary for residents to make evacuation preparations. 

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