(AFP) – Dec 4, 2010
BANOS, Ecuador — Authorities ordered the preventive evacuation Saturday in the southern Ecuadoran town of Bano as they put the country on high alert over a possible major eruption of the Tungurahua volcano.
"People are coming to safe areas in an orderly fashion," Deputy Interior Minister Edwin Jarrin told AFP.
The Geophysical Institute in Quito reported since early Saturday a "very rapid and sustained increase in seismic activity and other manifestations at the surface" of the volcano.
Tungurahua, which has been erupting off and on since 1999, was spewing out incandescent material and ash, according to the institute.
A red alert was in effect in Banos and other Andean villages of the 5,029-meter (16,500-foot) volcano, whose name means "throat of fire" in the local Quechua language. It is located some 135 kilometers (85 miles) south of Quito.
In 1999, the 15,000 inhabitants of this town were forcibly evacuated by a powerful eruption and were unable to return to their homes for a year.
Banos, one of the gateways to the Amazon jungle, hosts an average of a million tourists a year, 40 percent of them foreigners, according to local officials.
Tungurahua's biggest eruption, in August 2006, left six people dead and destroyed hundreds of homes.
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