QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- After menacing Quito for a year,
Ecuadorean volcano Guagua Pichincha claimed its first victim
Wednesday, an elderly man with respiratory problems who died after
heavy ash fell over the city.
A man and three women were hurt when they fell from the roofs of their
homes trying to clean ash that had built up overnight, the Red Cross said.
Authorities said the 15,840-foot Pichincha has dumped 5,000 tons of ash
this city of 1.4 million people in the last 24 hours. The volcano, located 8.5
miles west of Quito, began spitting ash again Wednesday morning after
raining down volcanic dust for five hours Tuesday.
Officials have said the volcano may rain ash for months.
On Wednesday, people hurried along Quito's streets covering their mouths
and noses with white cloth masks to protect against the dust-like ash that
swirled through the air.
"This is horrible. The ash burns your eyes and your throat. How are we
going to live like this for months?" complained Giselle Valdez, an office
worker who was in the streets running an errand for her boss.
An 89-year-old man died early Wednesday "because the ash that has fallen
on Quito caused a respiratory crisis," said Red Cross spokesman Cristian
Rivera. "The dead man suffered from chronic pulmonary disease."
Red Cross paramedics provided emergency treatment for dozens of people
with respiratory problems, Rivera said. Officials have recommended that
elderly people and persons suffering from asthma move out of Quito until the
volcano halts its eruptions of ash.
Scientists have discounted any threat to Quito from lava flows because
mouth of the crater faces away from the capital and another peak stands as
a barrier between the active peak and Quito.
Authorities warned the city's inhabitants not to wash off the ash that
had accumulated on sidewalks because the mix of water and ash
produces a cement-like substance that could clog the city's drains. Heavy
rain on Wednesday afternoon, however, frustrated officials in their
efforts to keep drains from clogging.
Quito's airport shut down Tuesday night and remained closed on
Wednesday. All flights, both domestic and foreign, were canceled.
Some 200 workers using heavy sweepers were working Wednesday to
clean the runways. Airport officials said planes could not take off until the
ash stopped falling and the runways were clean because ash could clog
The government closed all schools on Tuesday and the schools remain
closed until the ash threat passes.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.